Berkeley should have let Coulter speak

What in the world were administrators at the University of California Berkeley thinking when they decided not to let conservative provocateur Ann Coulter make a speech on campus?

Berkeley, after all, is one of the schools where the idea of academic freedom of speech prominently took root during the civil rights era five decades ago. Now the school is claiming that because so many people might object to what Coulter says, the event would be a security risk and therefore should be canceled.

Berkeley apparently has forgotten the whole idea of freedom of speech. It’s in the Constitution to guarantee the airing of unpopular viewpoints and to challenge robotic groupthink, which seems to be all the rage these days among both conservatives and liberals.

Berkeley is a well-known haven for liberals, so Coulter and the student groups who invited her to speak are clearly in the minority. But no one is required to listen to her. Anybody who dislikes what she says can simply stay away, or protest peacefully if they wish.

The university deserved the lawsuit filed against it by the student groups who claim the decision to cancel Coulter’s appearance violates their right to free speech.

Further, the school’s claim that it fears violence if Coulter appears only encourages more threats of disruption by protesters. The end result is to exclude unpopular opinions, and a university is the last place where that should happen.

The university’s resistance has only emboldened Coulter and her fans, adding substance to their argument that American academia wants nothing to do with conservative ideas. She deserves to be heard.

If an oversized police presence is needed for Coulter’s visit to Berkeley, so be it. That’s a small price to pay to defend a cherished principle.

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