Students sue college for sabotaging conservative event

Higher Education | Lawsuit claims Cal State LA tried to silence free speech
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 12/08/16, 02:15 pm

In a hearing this week, a California university asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit alleging the university intentionally tried to shut down and block access to a conservative speaking event.

The Young Americans for Freedom at California State University–Los Angeles filed the lawsuit  in May against administrators and faculty. The suit claims the university’s opposition to a free-speech event featuring conservative columnist Ben Shapiro violated students’ and Shapiro’s constitutional rights to free speech, equal protection, and due process.

Formerly the editor-at-large at Breitbart, Shapiro, a lawyer and nationally syndicated columnist, founded and now edits The Daily Wire. Shapiro’s talk at Cal State LA, entitled “When Diversity Becomes a Problem,” was about attacks on free speech in higher education. 

One week before the February event, university officials told YAF it had to pay a $621.50 fee to provide security because Shapiro’s views and topics were controversial. The group refused.

Four days later, university president William Covino sent an email to YAF canceling the event, saying he would instead schedule a “more inclusive event,” featuring Shapiro “as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity,” something Covino said would be “best for our campus community.” When YAF moved forward with the event, some professors encouraged students to protest, and hundreds of people blocked the entrances and exits of the venue.

Only a small number of students made it in to hear Shapiro. Some were sneaked in through a back entrance a few students at a time. After the event, campus police told Shapiro and the students they could not guarantee their lives or safety if they exited the room.

“The cornerstone of higher education is the ability of students to participate in the ‘marketplace of ideas’ on campus,” said Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who is representing the plaintiffs, including Shapiro. “Instead, student groups and Mr. Shapiro encountered systematic and violent opposition to a free-speech event promoting diversity of opinion.”

University administrators claimed they did everything they could to protect all parties. Langhofer disagreed, citing a video where Covino specifically says he ordered campus police not to interfere with the protesters as they blocked the doors to the student union theater. The complaint claims Covino permitted protesters to “engage in unlawful, disorderly, and disruptive conduct” designed to silence the event.

The lawsuit includes allegations against several university faculty as well, saying they encouraged students to attend the protest, participated in blocking access to the doors, claimed the event was put on by “white supremacists” and constituted “hate speech,” and threatened violence against YAF supporters.

YAF is still active at the college. The group is hosting events on campus and is now one of the largest YAF chapters in the nation.

Langhofer said he anticipated a ruling on the motion to dismiss soon. The suit includes six claims, some filed against university administrators, some against university faculty, and some against both groups. If the judge dismisses any claims, Langhofer said, ADF will likely appeal. 

Kiley Crossland

Kiley reports on marriage, family, and sexuality for WORLD Digital. Follow Kiley on Twitter @KileyCrossland.

Read more from this writer


You must be a WORLD Member and logged in to the website to comment.
  • Fuzzyface
    Posted: Thu, 12/08/2016 02:51 pm

    If the picture is a true representation of the group, the membership looks less than 1/2 white.  The 'white supremecist' charge seems totally absurd.  It appears that CSU-LA and it's faculty mostly created the 'controvery'.  I hope the courts rule to help instill some common sense and true diversity at the college.

  • Christian_Prof
    Posted: Thu, 12/08/2016 05:04 pm

    This is unfortunately not surprising and very typical for most college campus administrators. They are covering their own rear ends. They know that the liberal intolerance on campuses across the country has reached deafening levels.

  • JerryM
    Posted: Thu, 12/08/2016 05:16 pm

    Heartening to hear of these students standing up in an increasingly totalitarian environment.  I pray common sense will prevail.

  • HenryC
    Posted: Fri, 12/09/2016 09:21 am

    We KNOW the brain is plastic, in that thought patterns and even basic patterns can be changed in anyone. This is not to say that it is easy, are that some patterns may be established before birth, but they can still be changed. The data is applied in most social studies, except when gays and transexuals are being studied. Then it is denied.

  • D Wallace
    Posted: Fri, 12/09/2016 02:02 pm

    Once again the thuggish, rabidly intolerant, rigidly totalitarian ideology / mindset / actions of many on campuses is on open display for all to see, behavior often incited by subtle or rabid professorial indoctrination of gullible, naive, intellectually and ethically ill-equipped students.


    And as in this case, classsroom / campus indoctrination is allowed or aided and abetted by cowardly, incompetent, and / or sympatico administrators and by faculties that actually have no use for true intellectual diversity, any thinking ouside the self-determined bounds of their rigidly narrow worldview, or by those cowed by the current rigid, extremist intellectual climate on many campuses.


    As bullies, such totalitarians (among administration, faculty, students, and hangers-on / supporters as applicable), always try to get their way by means of indoctrination then fear / intimidation with their non-idle threats of physical force or violence, of legal / financial consequences, social ostrazation, etc., for anyone who has the audacity, temerity, or gall to think substantially differently from them.  So much for liberal "tolerance". That's been gone a loooong time.


    I say, good on you YAF students for your courage in the face of these thugs.  Much success as you sue them until they glow!


    May such bad actors feel the painful, lasting consequences of their intolerant, bullying behaviors and get a well-deserved, behavior-correcting spanking (at least metaphorically).

  • jclark53
    Posted: Sat, 12/10/2016 12:12 pm

    Is the fee for extra security also charged to other groups? If so, it could be reasonable. But what I first thought was that the only reason they'd require it is because people opposed to otherviewpoints can be violent -- and moreso when the viewpoint they disagree with is conservative, "mainstream," or Christian.

  • Ben K
    Posted: Sat, 12/10/2016 12:31 pm

    This topic is so important to follow. Thanks for posting here.  Awesome to see ADF's name along with Shapiro's.