Today Young America’s Foundation (YAF) sent a letter to the University of Texas at Austin, demanding the immediate rescission of a viewpoint discriminatory “security fee” that University administrators levied on conservative students’ speech.
On November 14, 2017, the students of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) partnered with Young America’s Foundation to bring United States Senator Rick Santorum to campus to talk about “moral governance.” The lecture itself was a tremendous success and students benefitted from an insightful dialogue with Senator Santorum.
However, UT-Austin is now sticking conservative students with a $654 invoice for the security services of five security officers. Why? According to University officials, this “security fee” was necessary because Senator Santorum is “high profile” and because of the “political climate.”
“School administrators may not impose varying security fees based on the community’s reaction to the content of speech. Doing so violates both the First and the Fourteenth Amendments,” said Spencer Brown, Spokesman for Young America’s Foundation. “This security fee reeks of viewpoint discrimination. The facts are clear – University officials arbitrarily levied a hefty security fee based on the content of Senator Santorum’s lecture. Equally clear is how the courts respond to such a practice.”
As part of its Censorship Exposed! project, YAF sent a public records request to UT-Austin specifically requesting a copy of every invoice for security fees that the University levied on student organizations for student-organized events during the 2016-2017 academic year. The results are telling:
YAF also requested all documents “that reflects the factors considered when assessing a security fee for a registered student organization’s event.” UT-Austin provided YAF with a list of questions that administrators ask students who are organizing on-campus events. At least six of these questions improperly inquire into the content of the students’ speech leaving the strong and lasting taint of viewpoint discrimination:
Young America’s Foundation requested a response to its letter by January 19, 2018; at which time, YAF is prepared to explore additional remedies.