UCLA has warned campus Republicans that they will have to pay for security for a speech by a conservative commentator, but officials don’t know the total yet.
The only thing they do know is that the students won’t be able to pay.
Sound suspiciously like a strategy to shut down a speaker because of his viewpoint?
That’s what be belief of the Alliance Defending Freedom, written a letter to university officials contesting the fees.
“As the U.S. Supreme Court has made very clear, public universities can’t enact policies that effectively stifle free speech just because administrators fear protesters might show up,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer.
“The reason for that is simple: Speech isn’t free if all it takes to silence it is for someone else to object. The high court has specifically stated that security fees, such as the ones at UCLA, aren’t constitutionally permissible.”
The organization’s letter to school officials explains: “The Supreme Court has said, ‘[s]peech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.’ Imposing security fees based on the perspective offered by Bruin Republicans and its speaker is viewpoint discrimination. Thus, the university is violating Bruin Republicans’ First Amendment rights.”
The ADF letter went to Chancellor Gene Block in Los Angeles.
It was prompted because the school “assessed security fees for an expressive event scheduled for November 13, 2017.”
“We ask that you immediately rescind the decision to assess the fees and correct the unconstitutional policy that permitted this discrimination,” it says.
The campus organization is trying to hold a speech by Ben Shapiro, a prominent conservative commentator and UCLA alumnus. He wants to speak on “The Rise of Campus Fascism.”
Work was under way to set up the event when school officials abruptly told the campus group its members would have to pay for security.
“The university explained that it chose to assess security costs on Bruin Republicans based on the university’s evaluation of the campus climate and anticipated reactions towards Shapiro and his speech,” ADF says.
The letter continues: “In short, the [school’s] contract provides that if at least 70 percent of the attendees at the event are students, faculty or staff of UCLA, then the university will cover the costs of security. Otherwise, Bruin Republicans are required to pay the entire costs of security.
“And its individual officers will be personally responsible for such costs,” the letter says.
Further, the school “has not provided an estimate of the security costs but has stated that they will be substantial and that there is ‘no way’ that Bruin Republicans will be able to afford the entire costs.”
The plan has several constitutional failings, however, including the “unbridled discretion” held by school officials.
That simply means they don’t apply their policy uniformly.
“Since the policy was enacted more than 8 years ago and the university has more than 1,200 student organizations that host thousands of events every year, the policy should have been applied to tens of thousands of events … yet, astoundingly, the university has applied the …. policy only four previous times.
“Instead of applying the policy as written, the university exercises complete discretion in deciding whether to apply the policy to a student group’s event,” the ADF letter explains. “In fact, Mike Cohn, director of student organizations … acknowledged that the policy had been ‘dormant’ for a while. But like a ghoul in the night, the university decided to resurrect the policy so that it can haunt its favorite target, Bruin Republicans, because the university has determined that other members of the campus community may object to the content and viewpoint to be expressed at the event.”
The letter points out that UCLA, just a few years ago, paid Hillary Clinton $300,000 to speak.
“Here, the university assessed the security fees based on the viewpoint of Bruin Republicans’ event and speaker,” the letter continues. “Mr. Cohn is requiring Bruin Republicans, and its officers, to agree to pay some unspecified amount – which he acknowledges will be so large that they will be unable to pay – because Shapiro’s topics and views are controversial. The university’s policies and practices authorize the university to assess security fees based on the controversial nature of the activity and listeners’ potential reactions.”
The letter asks the school to rescind the security fees that have been assessed and affirm the students will not be ordered to sign a contract.