Is Cal State L.A. safe for free speech or does the mob win?

Conservative Ben Shapiro’s speech on diversity was met with threats from far left groups; security failed to control violent agitators
Friday, December 02, 2016

Attorney sound bite:  Tyson Langhofer

WHO: ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer
WHAT: Available for media interviews following hearing in Young America’s Foundation v. Covino
WHEN: Monday, Dec. 5, immediately following hearing, which begins at 1:30 p.m. PST
WHERE: U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, 350 W. 1st St., 7th floor, Courtroom 7D, Los Angeles

– Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer will be available for media interviews Monday following his arguments in federal district court that ask it to reject the request of California State University officials to dismiss a lawsuit that student groups and a conservative columnist, among others, filed after a mob incident in February.

ADF attorneys filed the suit in May on behalf of Young America’s Foundation, the Cal State–Los Angeles chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, columnist Ben Shapiro, and two Cal State–L.A. students to challenge the unconstitutional policies and practices of the university when it attempted to shut down a speaking event. When those efforts failed, university professors helped incite—and participated in—a mob of protestors to block entry to the speaking venue.

“The hallmark of higher education is the ability of students to participate in the ‘marketplace of ideas’ that a public university is supposed to be,” said Langhofer. “Instead, student groups and Mr. Shapiro encountered systematic and violent opposition to a free speech event promoting diversity of opinion. When public universities discriminate against points of view they don’t prefer, they violate both the First Amendment and a core purpose behind their own existence. That’s why we are asking the court to allow this suit to proceed and reject the university’s request to be let off the hook.”

Shapiro was scheduled to give a presentation entitled “When Diversity Becomes a Problem” at Cal State–L.A. on Feb. 25 as part of a free speech event that YAF organized. University officials first attempted to shut down the event. When those efforts failed, professors helped incite a mob of protestors to block entry to the venue where Shapiro was speaking. The incident was captured on video.

In January 2016, YAF partnered with Shapiro to host a nationwide speaking tour at college campuses including Cal State–L.A. to discuss free speech in higher education. One week before the event, on Feb. 18, the university informed YAF that Shapiro’s “topics and views are controversial” and that YAF would therefore be required to pay $621.50 to provide security. Four days later, on Feb. 22, Cal State–L.A. President William Covino sent an e-mail to YAF cancelling the event because doing so would be “best for our campus community.” Covino added that he would schedule a “more inclusive event” where Shapiro could speak “as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity.”

When YAF went forward with the event as planned, hundreds of protestors—including professors and faculty from the university—flooded the Student Union and physically blocked access to the theater where Shapiro was. Professor Robert Weide made multiple posts on Facebook in which he called YAF supporters “white supremacists,” compared them to Hitler, and threatened violence against them.

The lawsuit explains that the actions of university officials and employees not only created a safety hazard but also violated numerous of the university’s own policies, state and local laws, and the U.S. Constitution.
  • Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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