University of Massachusetts Amherst: Student Group Charged Unconstitutional Security Fee for Controversial Speaker

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Boston College University of Massachusetts – Amherst

The Republican Club at UMass Amherst was pressured to accept $444.52 in extra security fees by the university’s police department after it became known that students were planning to protest and disrupt its lecture event featuring conservative columnist Don Feder. Though the Republican Club reluctantly accepted the fees, the speech was nonetheless disrupted by protesters, and Feder was unable to finish his lecture. After pressure from FIRE, including a column in The Boston Globe pointing out that forcing groups to subsidize the activities of their protesters is unconstitutional, the UMass Amherst administration relented and relieved the group of the extra fees, though it deceptively claimed it had originally assessed the extra fees because of a larger expected audience than originally anticipated for Feder’s lecture.

  • Between the Lines: Intolerant of Dissent

    May 21, 2009

    Those who charge that modern-day liberalism has become fundamentally illiberal toward speech and ideas that challenge its own dogma could ask for no better illustration than recent events at UMass-Amherst. On March 11, the Republican Club at UMass hosted Don Feder, a conservative journalist, addressing the subject of hate speech and hate crimes. Feder believes that legislation which singles out hate crimes with special penalties, rather than treating all violent crime equally, amounts to unconstitutional punishment of bad speech or bad thoughts. He also disputes the notion of a hate crime epidemic in America. A group of left-wing students announced […]

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  • Before you know it, your speech could be offensive

    April 22, 2009

    Those who charge that modern-day liberalism has become fundamentally illiberal toward speech and ideas that challenge its own dogma could ask for no better illustration than the recent events at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, a bastion of the academic left. On March 11, the Republican Club at UMass hosted Don Feder, a conservative journalist and former columnist for The Boston Herald, addressing the controversial subject of hate speech and hate crimes. Feder believes that legislation which singles out hate crimes with special penalties, rather than treating all violent crime equally, amounts to unconstitutional punishment of bad speech or bad thoughts. […]

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  • UMass-Amherst abandons free-speech rights

    April 21, 2009

    An organization that defends individual liberty in education is taking issue with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Last month UMass-Amherst came under fire for its treatment of conservative columnist Don Feder. Feder was invited by a conservative school club to give a presentation, but was unable to do so after student protestors heckled him off stage while university officials stood by. Now another censorship issue is brewing on the campus after student protestors stole copies of a conservative newspaper and blocked its distribution on campus. Adam Kissel is the director of the individual rights defense program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, […]

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  • Why no one should be silenced on campus

    April 9, 2009

    WHEN CONSERVATIVE columnist Don Feder spoke at UMass-Amherst last month, his speech was cut short by a large group of students whose noisy and disruptive antics drove Feder off the lectern midway through his speech. As one UMass student wrote after the event, “I am embarrassed of the way my fellow classmates have chosen to express their discontent.” She should be – but she should also know that she is not the only one who is due for some embarrassment. America’s campuses are seeing a growing movement by students to shut off debate by organized groups and silence speakers with […]

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  • Under Pressure from FIRE, UMass Amherst Revises 2010′s Speech Code of the Year

    February 14, 2011

    Under pressure from FIRE, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has revised its policy governing rallies on campus—and not a moment too soon. FIRE supporters will remember that the policy had earned UMass Amherst intensely negative attention, both here on The Torch and in the national media. In January, FIRE named the policy the 2010 Speech Code of the Year. In the post announcing this dubious distinction, Sam explained just why UMass Amherst’s policy was a cut above—or below—all the rest: While all 12 Speech Codes of the Month in 2010 flagrantly violated students’ right to free expression, one-the University […]

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  • Victory for First Amendment Rights at UMass Amherst: Administration Rejects Censorship of Newspaper

    April 23, 2009

    Under pressure from FIRE, University of Massachusetts Amherst has rejected the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. In addition, FIRE has learned that UMass Amherst has held accountable at least one of the people who stole copies of The Minuteman out of the hands of a student while a campus police officer watched and did nothing. Several video recordings of the newspaper theft at UMass show UMass police officer Lisa Kidwell idly standing by as hundreds of copies of The Minuteman are stolen out of the hands of a […]

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  • Victory for First Amendment Rights at UMass Amherst: Administration Rejects Censorship of Newspaper

    April 23, 2009

    AMHERST, Mass., April 23, 2009—Under pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), University of Massachusetts Amherst has rejected the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. In addition, FIRE has learned that UMass Amherst has held accountable at least one of the people who stole copies of The Minuteman out of the hands of a student while a campus police officer watched and did nothing. “Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis was right: Sunlight is the best of disinfectants,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Next time, maybe UMass […]

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  • Free speech silenced

    April 16, 2009

    The Founding Fathers thought it was so important that they made it No. 1. The former slave Frederick Douglass told a Boston crowd that liberty was meaningless without it. Public Enemy rapped about it in “Fight the Power.” Across the centuries, freedom of speech has been held up as a freedom worth fighting for. It is enshrined in the First Amendment. How regrettable that it seems so little valued at the Massachusetts institutions where it should be most respected – our universities. In late March, Boston College cancelled the appearance of University of Illinois professor William Ayers, a former member […]

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  • FIRE Vice President Pens Op-Ed for ‘The Boston Globe’: ‘Why no one should be silenced on campus’

    April 9, 2009

    Today’s Boston Globe features an op-ed from FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley on the disruption of Don Feder’s speech at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Robert points out that this incident is indicative of a larger problem on college campuses, where students resort to disruption and violence to preempt speech with which they disagree: America’s campuses are seeing a growing movement by students to shut off debate by organized groups and silence speakers with whom they disagree. Rather than engage in the give-and-take that should be characteristic of the university as a “marketplace of ideas,” these students have decided […]

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  • Four FIRE Cases on Security Fees Top Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle

    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, […]

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  • FIRE Letter to University of Massachusetts Chancellor Robert C. Holub

    March 24, 2009

    March 24, 2009 Chancellor Robert C. Holub University of Massachusetts Amherst 374 Whitmore Administration Building Amherst, Massachusetts 01003 Sent by U.S. Mail and Facsimile (413-545-2328) Dear Chancellor Holub: As you can see from the list of our Directors and Board of Advisors, FIRE unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, due process, legal equality, freedom of association, religious liberty and, in this case, freedom of speech on America’s college campuses. Our website, www.thefire.org, will give you a greater sense of our identity and activities. FIRE […]

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