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U.C. Berkeley reaches settlement in conservative discrimination lawsuit

By Daniel Uria
U.C. Berkeley reaches settlement in conservative discrimination lawsuit
The University of California, Berkeley reached a settlement with conservative groups Monday in a lawsuit alleging it discriminated against conservative speakers. File Photo by Khaled Sayed/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 3 (UPI) -- The University of California, Berkeley reached a settlement Monday with conservative groups over its policies regarding on-campus speakers.

The university agreed to pay $70,000 in attorney's fees to the plaintiffs -- the Berkeley College Republicans and Young America's Foundation -- and to make changes to its major events policy after the groups said the campus used "unwritten and unpublished High-Profile Speaker Policy to repeatedly suppress conservative speech on campus."

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The agreed-upon changes include not charging fees or relocating speeches based on the viewpoint of the speaker, a policy university officials said they consistently followed in the past. Additionally the university agreed to add language to the events policy defining a "major event" and "slightly altering" the approval process for event promotional materials.

In a statement Monday, U.C. Berkeley said the plaintiffs agreed to abandon their legal claims that past events have been managed according to "secret" unconstitutional policies and practices and the university wasn't required to concede that the claims it discriminated based on viewpoints were fact.

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"We are gratified that our Major Event Policy has been validated," campus representative Dan Mogulof said. "During the spring semester and the current semester, it has been that very policy that has enabled the campus to work effectively with the Berkeley College Republicans as they hosted numerous events featuring prominent conservative speakers without incident or interruption."

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Mogulof said the university viewed the settlement as the "least expensive path to successful resolution of this lawsuit" and that the outcome was "all but indistinguishable from what a courtroom victory."

The Young America's Foundation also declared the settlement a victory, saying "transparency and accountability" replaced the previous "murky process" enforced by the university.

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"Young America's Foundation is thrilled that, after more than a year of U.C. Berkeley battling against the First Amendment rights of its own students, the University finally felt the heat and saw the light of their unconstitutional censorship," YAF spokesman Spencer Brown said. "YAF's landmark victory for free expression -- long squelched by Berkeley's scheming administrators who weaponized flawed policies to target conservatives -- shows that the battle for freedom undertaken by YAF on campuses nationwide is a necessary one."

U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney ruled in April that the university must face the lawsuit after previously dismissing it in October on the grounds that the plaintiffs did not make a convincing argument for discrimination.

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