Conservative Group Drops Suit After Cal State Ends 'Discriminatory' Speech Rules

Cal State LA
A photo of the campus of California State University, Los Angeles. |

A conservative student group dismissed a lawsuit against California State University, Los Angeles after the school agreed to change its speech policies following a 2016 incident where the group's efforts to bring a speaker were hindered by administrative red tape and student protests.

The Young America's Foundation had attempted to invite conservative pundit Ben Shapiro to campus, but were met with opposition from both school officials and student protesters.

Cal State LA agreed to drop parts of their campus speech policies that YAF and others argued were discriminatory against ideological minorities.

In a statement released Tuesday, Shapiro said that while his attempt to speak at Cal State LA in 2016 was "a travesty with regard to free speech," he was optimistic about future campus appearances.

"I'm excited that we were able to come to an agreement with them to protect free speech in the future, and I look forward to coming to the campus soon to speak again," stated Shapiro.

"Hopefully this time, we can have an honest, open, and productive discussion rather than violence and chaos from those who disagree."

In February 2016, YAF invited Shapiro to speak at an on-campus event titled "When Diversity Becomes A Problem" at Cal State LA's University-Student Union Theater.

According to the campus publication Cal State L.A. University Times, YAF encountered several issues with Cal State LA President William Covino and, on the day of the event, protesters.

"Prior to the event, President Covino offered to hold a panel with other speakers to promote diversity. After comments from Shapiro stating that the event would commence without his consent, President Covino retracted the cancellation," reported the University Times last year.

"Protesters blocked entry to the U-SU Theater, where Shapiro was set to speak to attendees who wished to listen to his lecture."

Last May, YAF filed suit in district court, naming in their suit Covino, Pan-African Studies Professor Melina Abdullah and Sociology Professor Robert Weide.

By last December, Cal State LA had made adjustments to their speech policies and Judge Dale S. Fischer dismissed parts of the suit, as noted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

"Fischer dismissed YAF's challenge to CSULA's revised security fee policy, concluding that YAF did not adequately show injury from that policy. Judge Fischer also rejected YAF's argument that the failure to intervene in protesters' disruption of the Shapiro event amounted to a First Amendment or Equal Protection Clause violation," explained FIRE.

"He noted that because the law does not clearly establish that security officers had an obligation to remove the protesters blocking the event, CSULA administrators are also protected by qualified immunity."

YAF was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group based in Scottsdale, Arizona that has handled campus speech cases in the past.

ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer said in a statement released Tuesday that "universities should provide a level playing field so that all students can engage freely in the marketplace of ideas."

"Cal State L.A.'s acknowledgment that the university can't charge fees for speech it labels 'controversial' is a recognition that the prior policy violated the students' freedom of speech," continued Langhofer.

"The university's changes should enable students to organize future events in a safe and civil environment."

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