After a school year marked by outbursts of protests, some of which escalated into violence on college campuses, the Senate Judiciary Committee convened a hearing to discuss the assault on the First Amendment occurring in higher education.
Ranking committee member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., used part of her time to defend University of California President Janet Napolitano for her leadership during the controversy surrounding Ann Coulter's canceled lecture at the University of California, Berkeley.
After committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, cited the Berkeley case in his opening statement decrying the assault on free speech in higher education, Feinstein responded. "I know a little bit about the University of California, and you cited Berkeley," she began. "The president of that university is known to all of us. She was a governor; she headed a 250,000-staff Homeland Security Department here."
"She is tough, she is strong, she is fair, she is able," Feinstein concluded.
Napolitano is listed as a defendant in the lawsuit Young America's Foundation (my previous employer) and the Berkeley College Republicans filed against the university after administrators attempted to use a "high-profile speaker policy" to hamper Coulter's lecture.
The lawsuit accuses Berkeley of "[engaging] in a pattern and practice of enforcing a recently adopted, unwritten and unpublished policy that vests in University officials the unfettered discretion to unreasonably restrict the time, place, and manner of any campus event involving ‘high-profile speakers.'"
"Defendants freely admit that they have permitted the demands of a faceless, rabid, off-campus mob to dictate what speech is permitted at the center of campus during prime time, and which speech may be marginalized, burdened, and regulated out of its very existence by this unlawful heckler's veto," the lawsuit continues.
Referring indirectly, again, to Coulter's lecture, Feinstein defended Berkeley, arguing the university rightfully judged the event "would become a drawing card for groups that range from anarchists to just very unsavory people to be violent."
"That is really a horse of another color," the California Democrat contended.
Feinstein argued further that large universities "don't always have the equipment" to handle threats to safety and suggested the committee consider ways to help universities develop methodologies to do so.
"I know of no effort at Berkeley, at the University of California, to stifle student efforts to speech," Feinstein said. "And if there is a specific effort, I would certainly appreciate it if people brought that to my attention."
I'm sure plenty of conservatives across the UC system would be more than willing to help the senator out.
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.