A well-known and prominent university in Texas has gotten itself into trouble for charging "security fees" to a conservative student group.
It's because it evaluated what it considered to be the threats from the events, and charged the conservative group some $28,000 for security, without obtaining permission for the charges.
It is the ADF that has written to the police agency at the University of Texas at Arlington to contest the total officials charged Turning Point USA.
The student had had two small campus events.
But the legal team is warning that the excessive fees, in fact, violate the student group's First Amendment rights.
"Charging over $28,000 for two small events is prohibitively expensive speech – not free speech," explained lawyer Caleb Dalton in the ADF report on the dispute.
"The University of Texas at Arlington charged TPUSA outrageous security fees for two small campus events simply because of fear about how others might react to TPUSA’s speech. This is exactly the type of suppression the First Amendment forbids. Implementing such security fees is what’s known as a 'heckler's veto,' an action which unconstitutionally allows those who oppose certain speech to censor it simply by protesting or threatening to protest. We urge UTA officials to rescind these unlawful charges quickly and amend their policies to protect every student’s freedom of speech."
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The report explained the background. When TPUSA was holding an event for a speaker to address about 50 people, there was a discussion over the costs of security.
"TPUSA Vice President Carlos Turcios e-mailed the police sergeant asking for a quote for two officers for three hours, and the sergeant responded saying the rates were variable, but averaged $72.82 per hour per officer. Turcios and university representatives never agreed on the number of officers or that TPUSA would pay for any number of officers the university decided to send to the event, the report said.
After the fact, the university billed the students for $26,807 for "staff."
Then another bill for $1,844 appeared for a later event attended by about 20 students.
It seems Arlington officials decided on the billing "by subjectively evaluating possible actions in which protestors might engage—something completely beyond TPUSA’s control," ADF reported.
The letter to the school notes that a set security fee could be justifiable, but in this case the school set the bill "based on subjective evaluations of how hecklers and protestors may respond to TPUSA’s speech," and explained as content- and viewpoint-based discrimination, that's disallowed by the First Amendment.
The letter suggests legal action may follow if the school doesn't rescind the charges and fix its policies.
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