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Young America’s Foundation v. Berthelsen

July 2018
University of Minnesota (Public college or university)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Identity of Speakers

  • Ben Shapiro
    Faculty/Staff
    Other

    Ben Shapiro is a conservative political commentator, author, and former attorney.

Resources

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Recognized student group event
    Other
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration not protective of speech
  • Incident Status:
    In litigation Federal District Court
  • No protest Occured
  • Was Speech Code incident

Summary

Ben Shapiro, a popular conservative political commentator, was invited to speak at the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis on February 26, 2018 by a student group on campus, Students for a Conservative Voice (“SCV”). In anticipation of the event, leaders of SCV reserved several different potential venues on campus. SCV’s intention in reserving various rooms was to hold the Shapiro event in the largest venue possible on the Minneapolis campus. SCV submitted an official request to hold the Shapiro event at a venue that seats a little over one thousand people. The University maintains a Large Scale Events Policy that defines a large event as “taking place in a large campus venue or outdoor space that will draw a significant amount of the campus population, a large off-campus crowd, or represents a significant security concern (i.e., public figure, celebrity, etc.). Events may include, but are not limited to; concerts, lectures, public appearances, performances and rallies.” The University does not define what it means to be a “large campus venue or outdoor space,” a “significant amount of the campus population,” a “large off-campus crowd,” or a “significant security concern.” Pursuant to the policy, once an event was determined to be a large scale event, the organizing group must obtain support from the Large Scale Events Committee before a venue reservation is confirmed. The University determined that the Shapiro event would be classified as a “large scale event,” citing security concerns as the reason for such a distinction. Pursuant to its authority under the policy, the University limited the number of attendees to 500 and moved the location of the event to a smaller venue on the University’s St. Paul campus, which is less convenient for students wanting to attend the event. The University maintained this decision to hold the event at a less convenient location despite the availability of larger, more central venues that had hosted similar large events in the past. Plaintiffs filed suit, alleging that the University has allowed other speakers that posed similar security concerns to speak at venues on the Minneapolis campus that SCV had suggested for the Shapiro event. Plaintiffs maintain that the true reason that the University forced the Shapiro event to the St. Paul campus was because the institution disfavored the speech. The district court partially dismissed the complaint but allowed certain First Amendment claims to proceed.