UC Berkeley prepares for Ben Shapiro's visit

Provost offers counselling to students and staff who may take offence at 'Campus Thuggery' speech


The University of California Berkeley will again find itself central to the debate about free speech on campus this week when it hosts a lecture by Ben Shapiro, the conservative commentator and former editor-at-large of Breitbart News.

Mr Shapiro, who is a practicing Orthodox Jew, will be the guest of Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation. He will speak on Thursday night on the subject of "Campus Thuggery". He has often spoken out about being the subject of antisemitic abuse.

The university is apparently fearing similar protests to those that forced the cancellation of a proposed appearance by alt-right personality Milo Yiannopolous last year.

A statement from UC Berkeley's Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos laid out logistics for Mr Shapiro's visit, which included building closures and enhanced security, as well as the offer of counselling for students and staff who may be disturbed by the content of the speech. 

Mr Alivisatos's statement read: "Our commitment to free speech, as well as to the law, mandates that the students who invited Shapiro be able to host their event for those who wish to hear him speak. Our commitment to the principles of community mandates that all students, faculty and staff be able to be present on campus, engaging in their regular academic activities without fear."

It continued: "Some may wish to attend the event and hear the speaker to form their own views. Others may wish to stay away. Some may wish to protest. All activities can be done peacefully and with respect. If you choose to protest, please seek ways to protest peacefully and safely while observing rules related to the student code of conduct and our Principles of Community. If events escalate around you, please strongly consider leaving,” 

The statement then directed students and staff to the university's counselling services, should they be required. 

"We are deeply concerned about the impact some speakers may have on individuals’ sense of safety and belonging. No one should be made to feel threatened or harassed simply because of who they are or for what they believe," the statement said.

Mr Shapiro mocked the university's offer of counselling to students in a tweet that read "This Shabbat I told my three-year-old she couldn’t have more candy. She immediately registered for counseling at Berkeley.”

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