Posted on March 6, 2018

University of Miami Demands $7500 for Security for Free Speech Debate Involving Charles Murray

Eugene Volokh, Reason, March 5, 2018

The Federalist Society at the University of Miami School of Law is trying to put on a debate on free speech between political scientist Charles Murray and Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks, who has written extensively about First Amendment law. Murray, of course, is controversial because he coauthored The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, a book that suggested (among other things) that there may be some biological differences in intelligence between various racial groups. But perhaps because of recent attempts to suppress his speech — including a notorious violent attack at Middlebury College, in which Middlebury professor Allison Stanger was injured — he has also started talking about academic freedom (see, e.g., here). This particular event promised to be a serious, substantive discussion between two serious, substantive scholars.

But the University of Miami has been demanding over $7500 in security fees to allow the event to proceed; their quote called for 21 police officers plus 10 security guards, as well as a “team of bag checkers and wanders.” Naturally, that amount is prohibitive for a small student group.

Now I recognize that security costs money, and that universities would understandably prefer to spend their funds on other things. And Miami is a private university, so they are not bound by any First Amendment constraints that would govern a public university.

But the university can’t be blind to the practical consequences that such decisions lead to:

[1.] If people know that violence (or even just threats of violence) against speakers will lead universities to demand such security fees, and thus prevent the speakers from coming in the future, the result will be more such violence and threats. {snip}


[2.] Of course right now, the bulk of the suppression attempts on university campuses have come from extremists of the Left. If the universities effectively accede to that, rather than stand firm against it, the ideological monoculture at many academic institutions will just become more and more severe. {snip}

[3.] Finally, creating incentives to engage in violence doesn’t just undermine free speech: It undermines the rule of law. {snip}

This is why the Supreme Court has rightly rejected such heightened security fee policies for parades and demonstrations in traditional public fora (see Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement (1992)). True, protecting speakers against violence means more costs for police departments, which are ultimately borne by the taxpayers — but it’s a wise investment in preserving free speech and the rule of law. {snip}