DOJ backs conservative students in lawsuit against Berkeley

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is stepping in to defend a group of conservative students who are suing the University of California, Berkeley for violating their First Amendment rights.

According to a Thursday press release, the DOJ has filed a statement of interest in the case of Young America’s Foundation and Berkeley College Republicans v. Janet Napolitano—the plaintiffs being a pair of conservative groups that repeatedly faced roadblocks when bringing speakers to campus, and the defendant being the president of the University of California System.

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In their lawsuit, the conservative students claim that the university applied a double standard to conservative events on campus and used its “High-Profile Speaker Policy” to stymie their efforts, specifically in the case of a planned speech by Ann Coulter that was cancelled by administrators.

As the DOJ press release notes, the plaintiffs were required to jump through hurdles set up by the speaker policy while a former president of Mexico and a former White House adviser were hosted without being subjected to the “High-Profile Speaker Policy.”

The statement of interest itself agrees that the “plaintiffs adequately pleaded that the university’s high-profile speaker policy and major events policy violate the First Amendment.”

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“Plaintiffs’ amended complaint adequately pleads that the university’s speech restrictions violate the First Amendment, and therefore, at least to that extent, the Court should deny Defendants’ motion to dismiss,” the statement concludes.

Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand asserted that the DOJ “will not stand by idly while public universities violate students’ constitutional rights.”

Doubling down on her claims, Brand also wrote an op-ed for Fox News in which she expresses further support for the conservative students at Berkeley.

“The heart of a university education used to be exposure to a wide range of ideas and the opportunity to debate their merits in order to inform one’s own positions and learn to articulate them persuasively,” she notes, but observes that in today’s environment, that ideal “has apparently taken a backseat to students’ desire to be comfortable and affirmed.”

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These statements, however, are just the latest efforts from the DOJ to stand up for the First Amendment on campus, a commitment articulated last fall by Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a speech at Georgetown University.

“Freedom of thought and speech on America’s college campuses are under attack,” he remarked at the time. “The American university was once the center of academic freedom, a place of robust debate; a forum for the competition of ideas. But it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogeneous thought; a shelter for fragile echoes.”

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