Administrators at universities across the country are responding to the growing demand for conservative and libertarian thought on campus by imposing a slimy form of ideological censorship: excessive security fees for conservative and libertarian events, demanded at the last minute before students have a chance to raise funds.
Prior to a recent event at my university in which the Bucknell University Conservatives Club hosted conservative commentator Guy Benson, I spoke with a public safety officer who informed me that university police is rarely asked to do security for events in which the speaker is a progressive commentator or activist.
This presents a problem by itself. Conservative and libertarian students are already at a financial disadvantage when it comes to planning campus events because they are often forced to pay security fees that their progressive counterparts have the luxury to forego.
I wrote in October about a concerning new trend in campus censorship which involved administrators spiking security fees for events hosted by conservative and libertarian student groups, typically with just a few days to spare before an event is set to take place. Students at the University of Maryland, who were preparing to host an event with Breitbart Senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos, were asked to provide the university with an additional $6,500 in fees just days prior to the event’s scheduled date. After failing to raise the money, the students were forced to cancel the event, and the University of Maryland successfully blocked MILO from speaking on campus under the guise of their concerns for student safety.
Since then, administrators at Iowa State and Minnesota State have hit student groups planning to host Breitbart Senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos with last-minute security fee hikes. This slippery tactic from college adminstrators is spreading fast.
Interestingly, all of the institutions that have tried to block MILO from speaking with this form of censorship have been public universities. In that October column, I mentioned an important 1992 Supreme Court case in which the court decided that public universities were not permitted to vary security fees for political events based upon an administrator’s subjective determination of “the amount of hostility likely to be created by the speech based on its content.”
It is important to note the distinction between a demand for increased security based upon the content of speech and a demand for increased security based upon the anticipated volatility of an audience’s reaction to said content. With regards to the incident at the University of Maryland, security fees were increased not as a result of the content of Milo’s speech, but out of concerns that their students wouldn’t be able to behave when faced with ideas that conflict with their own.
“Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob,” the Forsyth Court wrote, noting that “[t]hose wishing to express views unpopular with bottle throwers, for example, may have to pay more for their permit.”
Just this week, students at Minnesota State University, who had arranged to host MILO on December 15, were hit with an increased security fee. One of the student organizers who helped to plan the event believes that the increased fee is an attempt by the university to shut down their speech: “This was I believe a tactic to have us cancel the event because they don’t think we can raise that money and we will but then they just got benefit of draining us of more of our resources” he continued. “We want the bullying of conservatives on liberal campuses to stop.”
It is not a coincidence that university administrators have ramped up their deceitful form of censorship following Trump’s victory in November’s presidential election. Trump-supporting students at universities across the nation have been shamed into a quiet corner of their campus and made to believe that they are responsible for the fear that some students claim they now have as a result of the election.