Two days before an event on campus last month, the University of Pittsburgh charged the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), a conservative group, and the school’s College Republicans, a $5,546.52 security fee in case other students rioted over “controversial” speaker Ben Shapiro’s appearance.
Rather than controlling rioters, who seek to shut down speech they oppose, the school required YAF to cover extra security and potential damages.
YAF has threatened to sue the school if it doesn’t rescind the fee and change its policies. The group’s legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which also represents Christian business owners like Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman, sent a letter to the school on Monday:
The letter asks the university to rescind the fee assessment and modify its policy.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear: Public universities can’t enact policies that stifle free speech simply because administrators fear protestors might show up or students might be offended,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Larcomb. “The reason for that is simple: Speech isn’t free if the speaker can be forced to pay money simply because somebody may object. The Supreme Court has specifically stated that security fees, such as the ones Pitt has assessed, aren’t constitutionally permissible.”
Students followed the university’s policies and procedures for scheduling the Shapiro event, notifying the university of their plans several months in advance. In addition, YAF previously signed a contract with the university on Oct. 18 on Shapiro’s behalf, stating unequivocally that the university would provide Pitt Police Security and “all house personnel necessary” for the event. Nonetheless, two days before the event, the university breached its contract with YAF and assessed an additional fee based on the anticipated content and views of Shapiro’s speech and the prediction that students would find offense and conduct protests.
The left’s intolerance for speech they oppose seems to be growing. One way to stifle dissent is to threaten to damage people and property in the form of “protests” that are anything but peaceful. Such roadblocks make it more difficult to expose indoctrinated students to different points of view — which is the point.
In better news, YAF recently scored a win against the University of California at Berkeley. Though the school denied any wrongdoing over policies YAF said violated their right to bring speakers to campus, including charging high security fees, it settled the lawsuit. From the Washington Examiner:
In the settlement, UC Berkeley agreed to the following terms set by YAF:
- Pay YAF $70,000.
- Rescind the unconstitutional “High-Profile Speaker Policy.”
- Rescind the viewpoint-discriminatory security fee policy.
- Abolish its heckler’s veto — protesters will no longer be able to shut down conservative expression.
Under these terms, UC Berkeley will no longer be allowed to place a 3 p.m. curfew on conservative events or relegate conservative speakers to remote or inconvenient lecture halls on campus while giving left-leaning speakers access to preferred parts of campus.