The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has backed down from its decision announced last Friday to charge the Bruin Republicans student group security fees for hosting Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro to speak on November 13. The Bruin Republicans would have been charged if over 30% of the audience came from outside the campus.
Campus spokesman Tod Tamberg stated:
Given UCLA’s commitment to free speech, and to avoid any appearance to the contrary. UCLA has decided to also pay the basic security costs for this event. UCLA will be adopting this approach going forward while it reviews its current policy to ensure that it continues to be a useful planning tool for UCLA and registered student organizations.
Last week, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sent UCLA a letter contesting the university’s decision. It read, in part:
Instead of applying the policy as written, the University exercises complete discretion in deciding whether to apply the policy to a student group’s event. In fact, Mike Cohn, Director of Student Organizations, Leadership & Engagement, acknowledged that the policy had been “dormant” for a while. But like a ghoul in the night, the University decided to resurrect the policy so that it can haunt its favorite target, Bruin Republicans, because the University has determined that other members of the campus community may object to the content and viewpoint to be expressed at the Event. … Here, the University assessed the security fees based on the viewpoint of Bruin Republicans’ event and speaker. Mr. Cohn is requiring Bruin Republicans, and its officers, to agree to pay some unspecified amount—which he acknowledges will be so large that they will be unable to pay—because Shapiro’s topics and views are controversial. The University’s policies and practices authorize the University to assess security fees based on the controversial nature of the activity and listeners’ potential reactions.
The letter added, “The Supreme Court has said, ‘[s]peech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.’ Imposing security fees based on the perspective offered by Bruin Republicans and its speaker is viewpoint discrimination. Thus, the University is violating Bruin Republicans’ First Amendment rights.”
Tyson Langhofer, representing ADF, stated:
As the U.S. Supreme Court has made very clear, public universities can’t enact policies that effectively stifle free speech just because administrators fear protestors might show up. The reason for that is simple: Speech isn’t free if all it takes to silence it is for someone else to object. The high court has specifically stated that security fees, such as the ones at UCLA, aren’t constitutionally permissible.