Free speech can be expensive.
Case in point, a new report reveals the University of California, Berkeley, blew just under $4 million in just over four weeks last fall, faced with the daunting prospect of keeping students safe as people with different viewpoints descended upon campus to express them.
That staggering figure comes courtesy of a Daily Californian report published Sunday, based on public documents the outlet obtained disclosing university police expenses from the time period. Per their report:
From Aug. 27 to Sept. 27, UCPD spent $3,910,259 on security fees and other expenses for three events: counterprotests held in response to the “alt-right” rally Aug. 27; conservative speaker Ben Shapiro’s appearance Sept. 14; and events related to the ultimately canceled “Free Speech Week,” which featured a brief appearance from Milo Yiannopoulos and the Patriot Prayer rally that followed on Sept. 26.
More than $830,000 was spent on Sept. 13 alone, the day before Shapiro's lecture, a figure that even exceeds estimates circulated at the time. Roughly $2.9 million was spent during "Free Speech Week." Neither Shapiro's appearance nor "Free Speech Week" generated the chaos many anticipated; the Shapiro lecture drew a sizable protest, but his speech went undisrupted, while "Free Speech Week" fizzled for a variety of reasons mostly attributable to its organizers.
"The vast majority of UCPD’s expenses," the Daily Californian reported, "went toward reinforcements from outside law enforcement agencies, with $485,283 spent Sept. 13 and $1,858,320 spent Sept. 24–27."
The university's expectation of violence was not entirely unreasonable given the hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage protesters caused before Yiannopolous' canceled lecture earlier that year, though administrators are on the hook for allowing the environment on campus to ever escalate to that point. It's hardly the fault of the conservative students who invited a mainstream author like Shapiro to campus that protesters credibly threatened to derail the event.
The university enabled a level of groupthink that should be antithetical to the mission of a university, and then faculty and administrators at Berkeley began to discover the price of their mistakes. And it's not cheap.