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Constitutional Freedoms

Huge Victory for Free Speech Against Berkeley’s Ideological Enforcers

Conservative group Young America's Foundation secures landmark win in the Ninth Circuit

Young America’s Foundation (YAF), a conservative youth organization founded in 1969, secured a landmark victory against the University of California, Berkeley, after more than a year of gritty litigation in the conservative-hostile Ninth Circuit.

The school agreed to YAF’s settlement terms, according to a release by YAF’s Spencer Brown on Monday.

The notice of conditional settlement was filed with the court on Monday.

“This is a landmark free speech victory for all students at UC Berkeley,” Harmeet K. Dhillon, the attorney for YAF, told LifeZette on Monday.

Attorneys across the county, she said, have already been in contact with her to let her know they plan to use the settlement as a model for their own free speech-related litigation at other institutions.

“A generation of college students will owe [YAF and UC Berkeley College Republicans] thanks for this victory.”

“I hope it opens the door to student groups, advocacy groups, and lawyers all over the country to increase liberty on our campuses, where much of our future is shaped,” added Dhillon (shown above right).

Dhillon has fought for First Amendment rights throughout her 25-year legal career and led the charge — along with her firm’s team — in negotiating the settlement.

YAF’s mission is to ensure that “increasing numbers of young Americans understand and are inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values,” the group notes. It is headquartered in Reston, Virginia.

The terms of the settlement include paying YAF $70,000, rescinding unconstitutional and events-related policies that marginalize conservative students, and abolishing the “heckler’s veto” — a process that allowed protesters to quash conservatives’ freedom of expression.

“To our knowledge, this is the first events policy at a public higher educational institution in California where student groups and outside groups will be charged $0 security fees to hold most events,” said Dhillon. “No longer will heckler’s vetos be permitted to tax and silence unpopular speech on campus. We expect to see this model eventually adopted at many other campuses.”

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

In addition, the school can no longer charge exorbitant fees for hosting conservative lecturers, nor may it discriminate against them by relegating them to remote and less desirable locations on campus.

The policy previously in place at Berkeley, YAF reports, allowed administrators to charge a security fee for hosting conservative commentator Ben Shapiro that tripled the fees paid by liberal students who hosted Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

There will now be no security fee for such events unless students are handling money or serving alcohol.

“Young America’s Foundation is thrilled that, after more than a year of UC 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,” said YAF spokesman Spencer Brown in the release.

“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.”

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.