After the University of Colorado at Boulder threatened to bill the Students for True Academic Freedom and other CU-Boulder clubs more than $2,000 for security for a controversial event featuring Ward Churchill and William Ayers as speakers, the organizers of the event came to FIRE for help. CU-Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard stated that Students for True Academic Freedom would be billed for security partly on the basis of a potentially hostile audience reaction to the speakers. The police security bill was going to be $2,203.42, plus fees for parking and building security. FIRE wrote to the University administration, explaining that requiring student organizations to pay for extra security is unconstitutional because it affixes a price tag to events on the basis of their expressive content. Soon after, CU-Boulder relented, and agreed that there should be no extra security fee for the event.
Victory for Freedom of Speech at University of Colorado at Boulder: University Lifts Financial Burden on Students Hosting Controversial Speakers Ward Churchill and William Ayers
April 20, 2009
Today’s press release announces that FIRE has persuaded yet another public college to respect the First Amendment when it comes to charging high security fees for controversial speakers. In each case, the university charged additional fees for security because of the controversial nature of the speaker’s ideas. Charging every speaker (or the speaker’s hosts) the same amount for security is fine-such as charging all after-hours events for an after-hours security guard. But charging some speakers more than others for security, simply because the audience might feel offended and get unruly, is prohibited by the First Amendment. Two years ago it […]» Read More
March 31, 2009
Page A-1 of Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle features four of FIRE’s cases on unacceptably high security fees for controversial speakers. In each case, the potential reaction of the audience was used to assess security fees and charge them to the host. But as the Supreme Court wrote in Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement (1992), “Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.” In the article, Bob Egelko points out that both Berkeley and UCLA, two of the three top-ranked schools in U.S. News & World Report, […]» Read More
March 17, 2009
Today’s press release calls upon the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Colorado at Boulder to meet their constitutional responsibility not to burden controversial speakers or ideas on campus. The principle is pretty clear: whether the speaker is controversial, popular, or unremarkable, similar security fees should be assessed for similar events. All too often, we have seen the assessment of very high “security costs” as a pretext for punishing or even excluding unpopular or controversial speakers. The truth is that if any extra security is deemed necessary because of a potentially hostile audience, it is the responsibility […]» Read More