04/21/2017

Berkeley Reverses Decision, Will Allow Ann Coulter To Speak

Thomas Fuller and Stephanie Saul, New York Times

BERKELEY, Calif. — The University of California, Berkeley, said on Thursday that it would permit the conservative author Ann Coulter to speak on campus in early May, just one day after it canceled her appearance that had been scheduled for next week.

But a student group that invited her rejected the new date, saying that the university was putting unreasonable conditions on the event and that Ms. Coulter would appear next Thursday, as originally planned.

At a news conference on Thursday, Nicholas B. Dirks, the chancellor, said the police had “very specific intelligence” of threats “that could pose a grave danger to the speaker” and others if it had allowed Ms. Coulter to appear next Thursday. Some recent speeches at Berkeley and other colleges have attracted violent protests.

The university had said on Wednesday that it would try to reschedule her appearance in September, but on Thursday Mr. Dirks said it had found “an appropriate, protectable venue that is available on the afternoon of May 2.”

He said the university would reveal the location when it finalized the details. “It can accommodate a substantial audience,” he added.

Ms. Coulter had vowed to defy the administration and speak at Berkeley anyway, and that appeared to force the university to schedule her appearance sooner than it had wanted to. “Ms. Coulter’s announcement that she intends to come to this campus on April 27 without regard for the fact that we don’t have a protectable venue available on that date is of grave concern,” Mr. Dirks said in a statement. “At the same time, we respect and support Ms. Coulter’s own First Amendment rights.”

That was still not good enough for the College Republicans, a student group that invited her to campus. The primary reason, said Naweed Tahmas, the club president, is that the university is requiring that the speech end by 3 p.m. Some colleges have asked provocative speakers to appear in the afternoons, rather than the evenings, to try to minimize the potential for violence.

Additionally, May 2 falls during what Mr. Tahmas called the university’s “dead week,” between the end of classes and final exams, a time when many students leave campus. Mr. Tahmas also said he anticipated that the administration would ask his group to pay a security fee for Ms. Coulter’s visit, which he said would be unfair because such payments were not required for liberal speakers.

“Ann Coulter will be coming regardless to speak at Berkeley on April 27,” he said.

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