UC President to Pay Half of Security Costs for Shapiro, Yiannopoulos

September 21, 2017

The University of California Office of the President will pay half of the cost of security for conservative speakers at UC, Berkeley, this month.

That includes $300,000 of the $600,000 bill for security for conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s appearance on Sept. 14, during which Berkeley regulated access to much of campus. It also includes an as-yet-undetermined, but likely greater, amount for security when provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and other conservatives hold a planned Free Speech Week at Berkeley.

Normally, an individual campus would be responsible for paying security costs associated with hosting a speaker. But the extraordinary cost associated with the controversial appearances at the free speech focal point of Berkeley led UC President Janet Napolitano to help foot the bill, she said Wednesday in an interview with reporters in Washington.

The speakers are not appearing in order to have an academic debate but instead want to put forth “controversial and noxious ideas,” Napolitano said. She went on to call colleges and universities places where noxious ideas are exposed but also admitted institutions are in a difficult position, stuck between protecting free speech rights while also protecting the safety and security of students and staff.

“This will be a test for Berkeley, no doubt,” said Napolitano, a former Homeland Security secretary in the Obama administration. She has communicated with Berkeley’s chancellor and chief of police to run through security plans, she said.

Napolitano also discussed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and federal guidance on campus sexual assault cases during a wide-ranging interview.

The UC system estimates it enrolls about 4,000 undocumented students, most of whom have protections under DACA. Napolitano helped to put the DACA in place when she was Homeland Security secretary, and the UC system filed a lawsuit trying to stop President Trump from repealing the program, which allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to apply for temporary protection from deportation and authorization to work. The UC system is urging students who are eligible to apply for renewal of their DACA protection before a deadline early in October, and it is raising money to pay for their renewal fees, Napolitano said.

Napolitano met with DeVos for about 30 minutes earlier this year shortly after Trump’s “skinny budget” was unveiled.

“I got the impression that her learning curve where higher ed is concerned is quite vertical,” Napolitano said, adding that she was being descriptive, not critical, and also recalling a conversation in which the new education secretary required an explanation of Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, called SEOG.

Napolitano does not anticipate any change away from the UC system using a “preponderance of evidence” standard for resolving cases of sexual assault. She has previously criticized Trump administration plans to replace Obama administration guidance on campus adjudication of rape cases, noting that California enacted a law requiring that evidentiary standard for higher education institutions receiving state money.

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