Administrators at DePaul University are facing complaints from the community after setting a precedent of charging political student groups unusual fees for hosting discussion and lecture events.
Most recently, administrators have come under fire for what has been called a “free speech tax.” This term refers to the unusual amount of university fees that student organizations have been subjected to during the planning of discussion and lecture events.
Earlier this year, there was significant controversy surrounding a DePaul event that featured Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos, in which university administrators refused to let security remove protesters who had rushed the stage and derailed the event.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) thoroughly analyzed the situation at DePaul and declared that the administration’s promises to protect free expression are essentially “meaningless.”
“Matters of social and political importance are often highly controversial,” said FIRE Senior Program Officer Ari Cohn. “If DePaul requires students to pay extra for the right to explore those ideas, DePaul’s promises of free expression are utterly meaningless. It’s disturbing enough to require a student group to accept the presence of university security officers at an informational meeting. Forcing them to pay for it is simply beyond the pale.”
The DePaul Socialists, a student organization that promotes socialist ideas, has also be affected by DePaul’s unusual event policies. “DePaul University’s decision to place restrictions on student organizations who wish to discuss political ideologies that differ from those of the administration reflects their lack of commitment to certain tenets such as social justice and the free exchange of ideas,” said Samuel Peiffer, a member of the DePaul Socialists. “What this has resulted in is free speech for the administration, and ‘fee speech’ for student organizers.”
Ari Cohn insists that DePaul subjectively determines a security fee based upon the event. Unfortunately for students, if the organization can’t afford the fee, the event doesn’t happen.
“How DePaul determines which events require costly security fees remains a mystery,” said Cohn. “What isn’t a mystery is that these fees are just one of many tools DePaul has in its toolbox for censoring speech with which it disagrees. Just in the past six months, DePaul has also outright banned multiple speakers from campus and used bogus IRS justifications for censoring political speech during an election season. Is DePaul the worst school for free speech in the country? It just might be.”
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity for Breitbart. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org