For a university that claims it “strives to promote understanding of and respect for diversity,” California State University-Los Angeles (CSULA) sure missed the mark last May when a mob of students and professors blocked access to a speech hosted by a conservative student group.
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, ironically, was scheduled to give a presentation on “When Diversity Becomes a Problem.”
Thankfully, responding to an Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit, CSULA officials have acknowledged the problems with their speech policies and practices on campus. They have agreed to revise their policies and practices so that they will no longer be used to discriminate against certain viewpoints.
The events that took place on the CSULA campus in February 2016 are a great illustration of what happens when university officials decide which viewpoints are allowed on campus.
When the CSULA Young Americans for Freedom first began advertising their free speech event last year, they received threatening messages from both students and faculty – one professor even challenged the students to a fight.
Because of this response, university officials decided to charge YAF over $600 in security fees because it considered the event “controversial.” ADF sent a letter on YAF’s behalf asking them not to charge the security fees, which are unconstitutional. University officials waived the fee, but then cancelled the event because they disagreed with Shapiro’s viewpoint. However, YAF decided to still move forward with the event as planned.
Before the event, students and even faculty poured in the student union and blocked students from entering the event. CSULA President William Covino told campus police to allow the protestors to block access to the event, in violation of California law and university policy, rather than moving the protestors somewhere else they could safely express their message without blocking other students from attending the event.
Does all that sound like a respect for diversity was being promoted?
“Last year’s near-riot at Cal State L.A. was a travesty with regard to free speech,” Shapiro said. “I’m excited that we were able to come to an agreement with them to protect free speech in the future, and I look forward to coming to the campus soon to speak again. Hopefully this time, we can have an honest, open, and productive discussion rather than violence and chaos from those who disagree.”
Viewpoint discrimination continues to be an issue on America’s university campuses. Instead of encouraging and promoting different viewpoints, university officials are silencing viewpoints they don’t like.
The good news is that when policies and actions like those at CSULA are challenged, they do not stand – the Constitution still applies to students whether university officials like their views or not. And ADF will continue to defend these constitutional rights.
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