Alan Dershowitz at NEP Studios in New York, Feb. 3, 2016 (Photo/JTA-John Lamparski-Getty Images for Hulu)
Alan Dershowitz at NEP Studios in New York, Feb. 3, 2016 (Photo/JTA-John Lamparski-Getty Images for Hulu)

Will Dershowitz talk at UC Berkeley be allowed to go ahead?

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Updated Sept. 28, 4:30 p.m. to include an additional statement on university policy from Dan Mogulof

A speech by Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz at UC Berkeley might be blocked because organizers didn’t give campus police the required eight-week notice for the event.

Dershowitz’s lecture, tentatively titled “The Liberal Case for Israel,” is planned for Oct. 10. But Rabbi Gil Yosef Leeds, director of the Chabad Jewish Student Center, which is sponsoring the lecture along with the pro-Israel student club Tikvah, said today that an initially approved 500-seat classroom was pulled because of the advance notice requirement.

“As of last night, Berkeley had reserved a large campus lecture hall for us, but because of a newly instituted policy requiring [giving] UCPD 8 weeks advance notice, so far they have denied on-campus space,” Leeds said in an email. “The semester isn’t even eight weeks old.”

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof pointed to the school’s “Major Events Hosted by Non-Departmental Users” interim policy statement announced on Aug. 14, which states that a request form must be submitted to campus police “at least eight weeks prior to the event” for audiences of more than 200 people.

“If they wish to host Mr. Dershowitz 12 days from now on Oct. 10, we have offered the students a number of venues that can accommodate an audience of 199 people,” Mogulof said in an email. “If, however, having a larger audience is more important to the hosting student organization than holding the event on the date they initially proposed, we would be happy to work with them to reschedule the event for a day at least eight weeks from now so that we can maintain compliance with policy.”

Mogulof said the policy applies only to non-departmental applicants. That means a speaker hosted by a UC Berkeley department would not have to follow the guidelines. Leeds said among his follow-up strategies is to seek a UC Berkeley department to sponsor the lecture.

Dershowitz, who could not be reached for comment, said on TV’s “Fox & Friends” this morning that he was being deprived of his free speech rights and accused UC Berkeley of being unfair to pro-Israel speakers.

Dershowitz, an emeritus professor of law at Harvard, wrote “The Case for Israel” in 2003 and often addresses the issue on college campuses, including an event last night at Columbia University in New York.

His bid to speak at UC Berkeley is the latest in a series of recent efforts to focus on free speech rights on the campus. Several right-wing speakers, including former Breitbart News editor-at-large Ben Shapiro, have visited amid accusations that the campus was shutting out right-leaning speakers.

Conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos made a 15-minute appearance on the steps of UC Berkeley’s Sproul Hall last Sunday, costing the university an estimated $800,000 to provide security. He came after student organizers canceled a “Free Speech Week” that was to include Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former adviser, and conservative author Ann Coulter.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions singled out the need for free speech at UC Berkeley in a lecture earlier this week at Georgetown University’s law school.

“The American university was once the center of academic freedom — a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas,” he said. “But it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogeneous thought, a shelter for fragile egos.”

Meanwhile, Leeds is confident the Dershowitz lecture will take place.

“I’m sure it’s on,” he said. “It’s just a matter of how this will play out.”

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster z"l was J.'s senior writer from 2016-2019.