Image Credit: Shuttestock and Facebook, Harmeet Kaur Dhillon

Constitutional Freedoms

Conservative Group Declares Free Speech Victory Over Berkeley

'We wanted to level the playing field' on campus, said attorney Harmeet Dhillon for the Young America’s Foundation

University of California, Berkeley, will no longer be able to charge its student groups any security costs for speakers in a move that conservative groups are cheering, explained a prominent lawyer involved in the case on Tuesday.

Young America’s Foundation (YAF) lawyers took the university to court over its practice.

The conservative youth organization argued that the university was charging student groups security fees to discourage the appearance of conservative speakers on campus.

There have been some recent incidents in which students and far-Left protesters turned violent to silence conservatives.

Related: Huge Victory for Free Speech Against Berkeley’s Ideological Enforcers

“We wanted a settlement that doesn’t treat conservatives better than anyone else,” YAF attorney Harmeet K. Dhillon told host Laura Ingraham on “The Laura Ingraham Show” on Tuesday morning.

“We wanted to level the playing field. So now the university’s default rule is, if a speaker comes to speak on campus, either from an outside group that qualifies or an inside group like the Berkeley College Republicans, they are going to charge, in almost every case, zero security fees,” said Dhillon (shown above right).

YAF eventually proposed a settlement that would prevent the school from charging security fees with some exceptions, such as if the event serves alcohol.

The student groups might also be charged fees related to the venue or staffing, but that would apply equally to everyone.

Berkeley agreed to the settlement offer on Monday — and the school agreed to pay $70,000.

“The campus police and deans would do some private security assessment. They wouldn’t tell the students what they were going to charge until the last minute. That’s wrong. The university can no longer do that,” said Dhillon. “And this is a huge deal because the University of California is the largest public institution of education in the country.”

Dhillon, who has fought for First Amendment rights throughout her 25-year legal career, led the charge — along with her firm’s team — in negotiating the settlement. She added that this problem occurs on campuses across the country. She’s optimistic the settlement can spur further challenges to existing campus regulations — while also becoming a blueprint for other situations.

Dhillon noted she’s already heard from other lawyers looking to mount their own challenges.

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“We expect this model to eventually get used and demanded by students throughout that system. I have already gotten calls from lawyers who are suing other public institutions in other states.”

The terms of the settlement agreement indicate that U.C. Berkeley must grant conservative and liberal students the same benefits and privileges.

For example, the group that hosted conservative commentator Ben Shapiro was charged triple the fees paid by liberal students who hosted Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

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Connor D. Wolf covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at [email protected].