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UC Berkeley settles suit with conservative student group claiming discrimination




UC Berkeley students walk through Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus April 23, 2012 in Berkeley, California.
UC Berkeley students walk through Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus April 23, 2012 in Berkeley, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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The University of California, Berkeley agreed to consider changes to its policy on major campus events as part of a settlement announced Monday in a lawsuit over student access to conservative speakers.

The lawsuit was filed last year after a scheduled appearance by conservative commentator Ann Coulter didn’t take place in the wake of violence before a scheduled talk by another right-wing speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos. It accused the university of discriminating against conservative speakers.

Young America’s Foundation highlighted that the university had agreed to pay plaintiffs $70,000 in attorneys’ fees. It said the settlement was a “victory for free speech.”

As part of the settlement, the university is considering eliminating “complexity” as a criterion for determining whether a campus event is major. The university has also committed to publishing a fee schedule for security costs that student organizations hosting speakers must bear.

With files from the Associated Press.

AirTalk reached out to the University of California, Berkeley, for comment and the school’s campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof sent us this statement:

“We are gratified that our Major Event Policy has been validated,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof. “During the spring semester and the current semester, it has been that very policy that has enabled the campus to work effectively with the Berkeley College Republicans as they hosted numerous events featuring prominent conservative speakers without incident or interruption.”

“Given that this outcome is all but indistinguishable from what a courtroom victory would have looked like, we see this as the least expensive path to successful resolution of this lawsuit,” said Mogulof. “While we regret the time, effort and resources that have been expended successfully defending the constitutionality of UC Berkeley’s event policy, this settlement means the campus will not need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in unrecoverable defense costs to prove that UC Berkeley has never discriminated on the basis of viewpoint.”

Guests:

Bob Egelko, courts reporters with the San Francisco Chronicle

Natalie Orenstein, reporter at Berkeleyside, an independent news site; she tweets @nat_orenstein

Mark Trammel, associate general counsel for Young America’s Foundation (YAF), which brought the suit against UC Berkeley