Thursday, February 15, 2007

Censorship by Security

UCLA has banned a debate on campus involving the Minutemen, using security costs as the excuse. According to UCLA, the objectivist group that sponsored the debate was obligated to pay $15,000 in security costs for the protest against the event, which was an impossible fee for the group to provide. This suppression is not only wrong, it's unconstitutional. By assessing security fees, UCLA is effectively charging a higher fee for controversial speech on campus.

However, this isn't the fault of UCLA Students for a Democratic Society, which planned a protest against the speech. It's perfectly legitimate to hold a protest, and there is no reason why UCLA demanded such absurd levels of security (by my count, at a guess of $25/hour for 4 hours of work, UCLA demanded 150 security officers to guard the event) or called for anyone to pay for it. Policing costs are part of the general university budget, and should never be targeted at an organization.

Every college should adopt a free speech policy under which the university pays for all necessary security, and no student group is ever charged because someone might protest or disrupt an event. This makes complete sense: after all, the government doesn't have the power to shut down a controversial movie by charging a movie theater for the price of security against a protest or a criminal action. Why should a public university be any different?

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