On Tuesday afternoon, Young America’s Foundation put the University of Pittsburgh on notice of its intent to file a lawsuit if the university does not immediately rescind a viewpoint-discriminatory security fee that it illegally imposed on students Monday with respect to Wednesday’s lecture featuring Ben Shapiro. Just two days before Shapiro is set to take the stage as part of YAF’s Fred Allen Lecture Series, university administrators informed students that they would be required to pay a $5,546.52 security fee or the lecture would be canceled. When asked why the fee was so substantial, university administrators explained that they factor both “controversy” and “protests” in their security fee analysis—both of which are viewpoint-discriminatory and illegal considerations. “We continue to see more universities use security fees to burden student expression,” noted Young America’s Foundation Spokesman Spencer Brown. “When universities impose exorbitant security fees because administrators subjectively determine that a speaker is controversial or that certain members of the community will protest, they are employing a heckler’s veto. This gives protestors the ability to determine who has free speech on campus and which viewpoints may be expressed. YAF’s lecture with Ben Shapiro is scheduled for Wednesday night so we should know very soon whether the University wants to defend its viewpoint-discriminatory actions in court, or whether it will do the right thing and rescind this outrageous fee.” The following email was sent to University of Pittsburgh administrators on Tuesday afternoon:
Dear Ms. Chornick,
I want to thank you for your work on tomorrow’s campus lecture featuring Ben Shapiro. Young America’s Foundation (YAF) is looking forward to tomorrow’s lecture and appreciates the University of Pittsburgh’s commitment to free speech.
It is my understanding that yesterday—two days before the Shapiro lecture—Commander Holler informed the University of Pittsburgh College Republicans that the University is imposing a $5,546.52 security fee for tomorrow’s lecture. It is also my understanding that unless Young America’s Foundation, in writing, agrees to pay this expense, your office will not allow tomorrow’s lecture to happen.
Young America’s Foundation will pay the $5,546.52 security fee for tomorrow’s campus lecture featuring YAF’s speaker, Ben Shapiro. However, please note that our promise to pay this fee is in protest. We believe that the University of Pittsburgh’s security fee policy is deeply flawed—containing serious constitutional defects—and that because of these defects, the resulting $5,546.52 security fee is viewpoint discriminatory.
We have retained a law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom, to represent us in this matter. We intend to explore all legal remedies including litigation.
We look forward to working with your office to resolve this matter.
Mark Trammell, Esq.
Associate General Counsel
Young America’s Foundation
For additional information or to request an interview contact YAF Spokesman Spencer Brown via 800-872-1776 or [email protected].