BERKELEY — The student group behind a “Free Speech Week” expected to bring Milo Yiannopoulos and other conservative speakers to UC Berkeley later this month has lost access to at least two of the venues it hoped to rent for the event because it didn’t come up with the payments in time, a university spokesman said.
“While Berkeley Patriot did, at the last minute, sign the necessary contracts for these venues late in the day on Friday, 9/15, the student organization failed to fully secure its reservations by submitting the necessary payments by the 5 p.m. deadline,” campus spokesman Dan Mogulof said in an email Saturday afternoon.
The news fuels questions about whether the event, scheduled for Sept. 24-27, will actually take place.
While Milo Yiannopoulos has pointed to what he says is a lineup of confirmed speakers, including ousted White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and conservative firebrand Ann Coulter, the university said Saturday the student group missed three deadlines to secure the venues, Zellerbach and Wheeler auditoriums.
The group has so far failed to file all the necessary forms with campus police, Mogulof said, and to show proof that speakers are confirmed. And several speakers identified by Yiannopoulos as confirmed told the school they did not intend to participate in the event.
“This failure to confirm, combined with the refusal to provide unqualified speaker lists and schedules has led the campus to question whether Berkeley Patriot actually intends to, and/or is able to, carry out the proposed events,” Mogulof said.
A spokesman for Berkeley Patriot did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In February, the school canceled an appearance Yiannopouos, hosted Berkeley College Republicans, after demonstrations turned violent the night of the event. The school also pulled the plug on a planned talk in April by Coulter, fueling accusations, and a lawsuit, that the famously liberal university restricts conservative speech.
But Mogulof hit back at those claims Saturday, pointing to a peaceful appearance by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro on Thursday as evidence the school is committed to free speech and student organizations’ efforts to invite a variety of speakers to campus.
The student group hosting Shapiro paid around $9,000 for security fees while UC Berkeley shelled out in the range of $600,000. And while the school has said it is committed to helping Berkeley Patriot bring its event to campus, Mogulof said Cal “cannot defend spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide security arrangements for events based on a press release and inconsistent schedules.”
The school sets aside $250,000 every year in a “demonstration fund” but has blown through that already. “The CFO is in the process of identifying funds to meet expenses that obviously go well beyond $250,000 this year,” Mogulof wrote in a separate email to this news organization.
Berkeley Patriot has requested another 10 venues for its “Free Speech Week” events, and will need to firm up details in the coming days, the school said.
“The University has made, and will continue to make, every effort to support the Berkeley Patriot’s right and ability to host speakers of their choice on this campus,” Mogulof said. “Should the student organization fail to complete the necessary steps to hold its remaining 10 reservations, there is absolutely nothing to prevent them from seeking to reschedule the events they hoped to host for a later date so that they can fully comply with the policies that apply to them and their peers.”
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