Young America’s Foundation v. Covino

From February 2016 to February 2017
California State University, Los Angeles (Public college or university)
Los Angeles, CA, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • Ben Shapiro
    Invited for non-academic lecture

    Ben Shapiro is a conservative commentator and provocateur.

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Recognized student group event
  • Incident Political Orientation:
  • Incident Responses:
  • Incident Status:
  • Incident Protested
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


The Young America’s Foundation is conservative non-profit organization “whose mission is to educate the public on the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, traditional values, and leadership.” In 2016, the Foundation partnered with Ben Shapiro, a conservative commentator and provocateur, to host a nationwide speaking tour at college campuses to discuss free speech in higher education. On February 25, 2016, the speaking tour was scheduled to stop at California State University–Los Angeles (CSU–LA) for an event entitled “When Diversity Becomes a Problem.”

On February 18, 2016, the university issued a Public Safety Work Request requiring the Young Americans for Freedom, the student group sponsoring the event, to pay the university $621.50 to provide security for the event. These fees were later rescinded, but the university maintained its security fee policy.

On February 22, 2016, William Covino, the President of CSU–LA, cancelled the event because of the public reaction to Ben Shapiro’s proposed appearance. Young America’s Foundation, Young Americans for Freedom, and Shapiro announced that they planned to proceed with the event as scheduled. As the time for the event approached, protestors, including some faculty members, linked arms in front the doors of the Student Union and physically blocked access to the theater where the event was to be held. University police officers did not take action or assist interested individuals in gaining access to the event. In response, members of the Young Americans for Freedom began to discreetly escort students to the theater using a back entrance. However, student protestors soon learned of this and blocked the back entrance as well.

Shapiro proceeded with his speech despite the theater being only half-full. During the speech, a student protestor pulled the fire alarm in an attempt to further disrupt the speech. After the speech concluded, the students in the theater were forced to remain in the theater for an additional 15 to 20 minutes because of the presence of protestors at the front and back entrances.

On May 15, 2016, Young America’s Foundation, Young Americans for Freedom, and Shapiro filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, alleging § 1983 violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to freedom of speech, equal protection, and due process of law; violations of California’s Bane Act; and false imprisonment. The case was settled out of court and dismissed on February 23, 2017. As part of the settlement, the school agreed to drop its security charges and that it will not cancel or refuse to schedule a speaker based on their viewpoint.