UC system to chip in $300K for ‘Free Speech Week’ security
The University of California system is prepared to pay at least $300,000 to aid its Berkeley campus with security costs in preparation for the upcoming “Free Speech Week.”
According to The Los Angeles Times, UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said that the UC system will use the money to cover the expenses related to last week’s speech by a conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.
The funds are also intended to go toward partially covering the cost of security for the upcoming event featuring conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, conservative columnist Ann Coulter, and others.
In total, UC Berkeley could spend over $1 million on the “Free Speech Week” alone, university spokesman Dan Mogulof told the publication, estimating that the cost to host just Shapiro on campus last week was approximately $600,000.
“Free speech is not free, it turns out,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in an interview with the Times. “The question, or the rock and the hard place that Berkeley is in, and other university campuses, is the value put on free speech and the safety and security issues that are implicated.”
In preparation for the event, Yiannopoulos also announced that he will be spending “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on security, including a 16-man Navy SEAL detail to protect him and other featured speakers.
Originally, the organizers of the “Free Speech Week” intended for the event to be hosted indoors, but following a series of contentious exchanges between the university administrators, Yiannopoulos, and student organizers, the scheduled appearances are now slated for outdoor venues.
“Milo and his cast of speakers will be on Sproul Plaza, which is a public space…and we will underwrite the safety and security expenses associated with that,” Napolitano told the publication, though she also added ominously that “at a certain point, that position—i.e. that we will have these speakers and pay for the security costs associated with that—may not be sustainable.”
Mogulof likewise told the Times that while the university is willing to accept its obligation to accommodate speakers, its patience for the associated security expenses is wearing thin.
The school would “much rather be spending these resources on academic programs or the student experience,” he said, “but the current conditions on this campus, city, and across the country make it clear these are the sorts of expenditures necessary to support our two key commitments: the 1st Amendment and the safety and security of our campus community.”
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