The University of Cincinnati is at it again.
Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a new conservative activism organization at the University of Cincinnati, will be hosting pro-life speaker Star Parker on February 15th. Her much anticipated speech will be focused on race’s connection to abortion and welfare dependency. Parker’s conservative stance on these issues, informed through her own life experiences, has been expressed on over 200 college campuses across the country. The University of Cincinnati, however, is making it difficult for her voice to be heard.
On Thursday, January 18th, Public Safety and UCPD informed YAF that they would be responsible for over $2,000 in security fees to ensure the safety of the attendees. The estimate budgets for six police officers, a Lieutenant or Sergeant, and an event coordinator. Besides the implied justification that Parker’s speech could incite some type of security concern, YAF was given no explanation concerning the cost or as to why the recommended amount of security was needed. This fee is not only out of reach financially for YAF, as would be the same for almost every other organization on campus, but was unjustifiably levied against the organization.
In a presentation all leaders of organizations at UC must watch, the University clearly states its policy regarding security fees:
“Student organizations will be charged for security if their event meets the conditions below:
- Alcohol is being served
- Admission is charged and/or money is exchanged
- 5,000 or more attendees at the event”
Parker’s speech meets none of these criteria. Alcohol will not be served. Admission will not be charged. And, being as though the capacity of the room is slightly over 300, the attendance of 5,000 people is not feasible.
The University’s blatant disregard for their own policies is not even the most concerning part about this situation.
As the courts have decided again and again, levying security fees on an individual’s speech due to its predicted controversial content is illegal, egregiously violating the First Amendment. In the same manner, basing a security fee off the high-profile status of, and the reaction of the public toward, one’s speech is impermissible and unlawful. Forsyth County v. National Movement makes this clear.
The University of Cincinnati student body should not stand for this suppression of free speech. The university experience should give students the ability to receive a balanced education, challenge their own viewpoints, and learn from those with whom they disagree. This essential exchange of ideas is being stifled at the University of Cincinnati and around the country.
The University of Cincinnati has done a disservice to its students and has overtly disobeyed its own policies, as well as the overarching law. An appeal to rescind the security fee has been made to members of the University administration. No substantive response has yet been received in a little under a week.