Right-wing speech stifled at UCLA? Conservative outrage, admin denies all

Ben Shapiro. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A Republican student group at UCLA is claiming that the university is imposing “unconstitutional” security fees for a Nov. 13 campus speech by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro in an effort to quash the event, but the school counters it’s unlikely the organization will face any security charges.

In a letter sent to the university on behalf of the Bruin Republicans, the Alliance Defending Freedom alleges UCLA is attempting to enforce “arbitrary and discretionary” policies upon the Bruin Republicans chapter in order to prevent Shapiro from speaking on campus.

The university, however, says the Bruin Republicans will only be charged fees if 30 percent or more of the people attending the speech are from outside the UCLA community.

“If attendees from outside UCLA are 30 percent or below, the cost for basic security is waived,” said Tod Tamberg, a UCLA spokesman. “There is no additional cost to the group (even) if additional security is needed to deal with protests.”

At least nine people were arrested last month during protests at Cal Berkeley over an appearance by Shapiro, who is editor-in-chief of the conservative Daily Wire website.

The ADF is demanding the university rescind the requirement and modify the policy by Friday.

“The Supreme Court has said, ‘speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob,”‘ according to the ADF’s letter. “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.”

ADF claims UCLA did not impose the same requirement on other events that attracted large off-campus audiences. In 2014, according to the ADF, the university paid $300,000 to Hillary Clinton to speak at the school.

“Of the 1,800 tickets for that event, 1,400 were sold to the highest bidder — mostly off-campus s,” according to the group.

Tamberg said that UCLA’s 2009 UCLA Costs of Safety Services at Campus Events policy uses content-neutral and viewpoint-neutral criteria, namely the degree to which the audience is from the campus community, to determine how basic security costs are allocated.

“UCLA provides resources to student groups sponsoring campus events with the intent that the campus community — students, faculty and staff — be the primary beneficiary; that free speech be protected; and, that such events are safe,” he said.

“To ensure that free speech is protected for every event, regardless of the degree to which the audience is from the campus community, the policy specifies that UCLA — not the sponsoring student group — will pay all incremental security costs associated with protests that may occur in connection with an event,” Tamberg said. “UCLA remains committed to providing a safe campus environment at events in which attendees and speakers can exercise their free speech rights.”

–City News Service