The University of California at Berkeley on Monday settled a free speech lawsuit accusing the school of discriminating against speakers with conservative views.
Under the settlement filed with the federal court in San Francisco, the university will modify its procedures for handling “major events,” which typically draw hundreds of people, and agreed not to charge “security” fees for a variety of activities, including lectures and speeches.
It will also pay $70,000 to cover legal costs of the Berkeley College Republicans and the Tennessee-based Young America’s Foundation, which filed the lawsuit in April 2017.
The settlement followed an April 27 decision by U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney letting the plaintiffs challenge what they called the university’s “secret” or unfairly restrictive policies toward conservative speakers.
Harmeet Dhillon, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the settlement addressed university policies that were “flatly unconstitutional” under the First Amendment.
“It is no longer able to tax speech on campus when it finds the speech to be disfavored or unpopular,” she said in an interview. “The university has taken a very important liberty-enhancing step to cover these fees.”
Dhillon added: “We wanted a settlement that doesn’t benefit just conservative students, but all students.”
The case is Young America’s Foundation et al v Napolitano et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 17-02255.