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University of Texas Selectively Taxing Conservative Speech

University of Texas Selectively Taxing Conservative Speech

By

marktrammell

January 10, 2018

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:
  • UT-Austin charged conservative students a higher security fee for the Santorum lecture than it charged any other student group in the 2016-2017 academic year.
  • UT-Austin also determined that Senator Santorum’s lecture presented a greater security threat to the University, and warranted a larger police presence, than other student-organized event in the 2016-2017 academic year.
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:
  • Will there be any special guests (politicians, or anyone controversial)?
  • What is the topic of the event?
  • Do you believe that a conflict could arise at the event?
  • Have you ever hosted this speaker before? If so, were there any issues at that event?
  • Have you asked him/her or their security detail if there were any issues at their past events?
  • Have you had any issues at any of your past events?
Young America’s Foundation requested a response to its letter by January 19, 2018; at which time, YAF is prepared to explore additional remedies.

For further information or to cover this story contact Spencer Brown via phone (800-872-1776) or email ([email protected]).

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