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Berkeley charges College Republicans $15,000 to let Ben Shapiro speak on campus

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The University of California, Berkeley, is charging the College Republicans $15,000 in security fees in order for the group to host conservative speaker Ben Shapiro on campus on Sept. 14. (Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Politicon)

The Young America's Foundation revealed Tuesday the University of California, Berkeley's plan to charge the College Republicans a $15,738 "security fee" in order for conservative speaker and author Ben Shapiro to address the group on Sept. 14, the Daily Caller reported.

The backstory

The saga began earlier this year when the group invited political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on campus. Violent riots broke out over his appearance, and Berkeley's free speech code was thrown into the national spotlight.

Shortly thereafter, the College Republicans went back and forth with the university over a speech Ann Coulter was scheduled to give. Berkeley canceled Coulter's speech, citing safety concerns.

The College Republicans then attempted to book a venue for Shapiro's speech. The school claimed to not have a free venue that could be utilized, YAF said in a news release. In July, Berkeley offered to allow the College Republicans to host its event at another on-campus venue that required a fee.

The university's side

According to Dan Mogulof, the assistant vice chancellor for the school's office of communications and public affairs, the Berkeley College Republicans changed the size and scope of the Shapiro event, which resulted in the need for additional security.

"It is our police department, not the administration, that determines the fee, and it can't be determined until the hosting organization makes up its mind about audience size and other event details. As soon as the BCR decided on its audience size, they knew exactly what the fee would be," Mogulof told TheBlaze.

Berkeley said they gave the College Republicans the following prices: $5,874 for 500 attendees; $9,162 for 1,000 attendees; and $15,738 for the building's capacity of 1,984 attendees. The group ultimately decided the event would sell out.

Mogulof provided TheBlaze a copy of an email that he said was sent to the College Republicans explaining why they would need to pick up the tab for event security:

Unfortunately, the University is not in a position to subsidize all of the costs of student organization sponsored events. In an effort to encourage and facilitate student organizations' ability to put on events, the University does, in fact, cover many associated costs at no expense to the sponsoring organization including the cost of LEAD Center staff time, the cost of event space in certain venues, and the cost of some audiovisual services.

In the case of the Shapiro event, as a special, one-time accommodation, the University is also covering the rental cost of Zellerbach Hall and the cost of Zellerbach staffing, which represents a substantial savings to BCR over the normal security costs that would be charged. Certain other event costs, including for example, any fees paid to the speaker, additional audiovisual services, and basic security (which does not include the cost of protest response), must be borne by the event sponsor. The security fee is not a "tax" but is a real cost of putting on the event, and BCR is being charged for fees (minus Zellerbach staffing costs) that would be assessed against any sponsor holding a similar event in the space.

The College Republicans' side

According to Young America's Foundation, the college "magically found" a room for the group's event after "extensive efforts" were made. The venue the college found carried a usage fee of $13,000 but the college agreed to waive the fee for the group, which was announced in "favorable media outlets," such as the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle.

YAF believes Berkeley is failing to uphold its side of the agreement by slapping the College Republicans with this fee.

"The sincerity of any claims made by Berkeley should be questioned given the school’s past stated inability to find a venue for YAF’s lecture with Ben Shapiro, and public claims that they’d cover the cost of a venue when one suddenly appeared," YAF spokesman Spencer Brown said in a statement.

YAF benefactors have decided to pick up the tab to ensure Shapiro's speech will remain on the calendar.

"Given the significant cost YAF has been asked to shoulder, we fully expect that security will be excellent — as it should be. That's why we're encouraging any groups who want to defend my lecture against Antifa to come to the lecture, but we don't want them to bring weapons or prepare for violence in any way," Shapiro told TheBlaze. "Let America see whether Berkeley keeps its commitment to protect free speech — and if they don't, then I think the country will be well aware what that means."

The Berkeley College Republicans did not immediately respond to TheBlaze's request for comment.

(H/T: Daily Caller)

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