Photo Credit: Millionasm from Wikimedia Commons

Through counsel, Young America’s Foundation (YAF) sent a letter on Monday, December 3, to the University of Pittsburgh threatening a lawsuit if the University does not immediately rescind the discriminatory security fee it imposed on the November 14 YAF-sponsored Ben Shapiro lecture. Young America’s Foundation is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in this matter. 

Just two days before Shapiro was set to take the stage as part of YAF’s Fred Allen Lecture Series, the University of Pittsburgh imposed a $5,546.52 security fee. When students asked why the security fee was so high, the University cited both “controversy” and “protests” as contributing factors to the exorbitant fee. 

The letter explains, “The University of Pittsburgh violated the First Amendment and breached its contract with Young America’s Foundation when it imposed a viewpoint discriminatory security fee on the Ben Shapiro lecture just two days before the lecture was scheduled to take place.” 

The letter further explains, “The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear: Public universities can’t enact policies that stifle free speech simply because administrators fear protestors might show up or students might be offended,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Larcomb. “The reason for that is simple: Speech isn’t free if the speaker can be forced to pay money simply because somebody may object. The Supreme Court has specifically stated that security fees, such as the ones Pitt has assessed, aren’t constitutionally permissible.”

“The heckler’s veto is alive and well at the University of Pittsburgh.,” said Spencer Brown, YAF spokesman. “Administrators at Pitt penalized YAF and College Republicans with an unconstitutional, exorbitant ‘security fee’ based on both the content of Ben Shapiro’s speech and the potential for protestors.”

YAF first notified the University of its intent to challenge this discriminatory fee on November 13, via email. 

Earlier this week, YAF won a major First Amendment victory against the University of California, Berkeley, resulting in Berkeley’s adoption of a new security fee policy that requires objective criteria in all security fee assessments—respecting the speech rights of all students.


For additional information or to request an interview contact YAF Spokesman Spencer Brown via 800-872-1776 or sbrown@yaf.org.

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