UC-Berkeley Slashes Number of Seats for Ben Shapiro Lecture

Ben Shapiro
Ben Shapiro / Getty Images
September 6, 2017

The University of California-Berkeley (UCB) has cut nearly in half the number of seats available for the upcoming Ben Shapiro lecture, citing "security reasons."

Steve Sutton, the vice chancellor of student affairs, and Margo Bennett the UCPD chief, wrote in an email to the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR), "In the wake of recent, violent incidents in the City of Berkeley and Charlottesville, the University of California Police Department (UCPD) recently completed a revised security assessment for the September 14th event featuring Ben Shapiro."

Tickets will not be distributed for the balcony, cutting available seats from 1,978 to 1,042, as the university has "concerns anything thrown from the balcony has potential to seriously harm patrons below and confrontations on the balcony could result in significant injury should someone stumble, trip, or get pushed over the balcony railing."

Due to the slash in audience attendance, the university has reduced the security fee it has imposed on BCR from $15,738 to $9,162.

Additionally, attendees will now be required to show photo ID, no "large blocks of tickets" will be sold, and no "will call" tickets will be available on the day of the event.

Bradley Devlin, secretary for the BCR, told the Washington Free Beacon, "This is just the latest attempt to stifle the conservative viewpoint on campus. This stonewalling is typical of the UCPD. They did it before Milo Yiannopolous, they did before David Horowitz, they did it before Ann Coulter—and all three of those events ended in cancelation."

Devlin was informed of the changes in a Friday meeting with Cal Performance, the staff in charge of Zellerbach Hall, where the event is to be held.

Cal Performance office staff told the Free Beacon the Shapiro lecture is a private event run by BCR and refused requests to speak with personnel knowledgeable of the developing situation.

University spokesman Dan Mogulof told the Free Beacon, "The remaining logistical arrangements for the Shapiro event are being completed and ticketing for the event will begin as soon as the BCR finalizes pending decisions about logistical specifics."

Devlin said his group was ready to open up ticketing, but was waiting on the university for clarification regarding "the process of entering and exiting building," including how patrons are to pick up tickets and what the security expectations are on the audience.

Sutton and Bennett maintained in their email that the procedures being followed adhere to the university's events policy and apply equally to all student groups.

Devlin said the school "rewrote the events policy over summer, and didn't consult us, even though they consulted other student groups."

"The code of conduct is a mess of arbitrarily, unwritten policies that are wielded against his group," he added.

The university originally said the campus could not accommodate the Shapiro event, co-sponsored by the Young America's Foundation, a conservative group currently suing UCB for alleged free speech violations. The administration then said it would cover the costs of holding the program at the Zellerbach Hall, but passed a mandatory security fee on to the conservative student group.

"It's just a bureaucratic runaround," said Devlin of the BCR's efforts to get Shapiro to UCB.

"This event will happen," he said firmly.

Last month, the new chancellor of UCB announced this would be "Free Speech Year."