Who Should Pay for Security at Controversial University Events?

Last month, the UCLA Objectivist club, L.O.G.I.C., tried to put on a debate about immigration, between Carl Braun of the Minutemen and Dr. Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute. As it happens, L.O.G.I.C. and Brook are strongly pro-immigration; nonetheless, the event led to a post on IndyMedia aimed at organizing a protest that "shut . . . down" the debate, on the grounds that "[h]ate speech is not free speech." That in turn led to the event being canceled: According to UCLA,

The security arrangements that were made prior to the event with the support of LOGIC were deemed insufficient due to the significant threat posed against one of the speakers and the large amount of off-campus promotion for what was to be a student sponsored event for the UCLA Community. The costs to adequately secure the venue were estimated to be $10 - $12 thousand and it was highly unlikely at such short notice that our UCPD could provide the adequate security coverage.

UCLA's original position was that L.O.G.I.C. had to pay the $10-12,000 in security costs when the event was rescheduled.

To its credit, UCLA has retreated considerably; Acting Chancellor Norm Abrams (a colleague of mine at the law school) wrote,

The university understands its obligation to bear the reasonable security costs relating to demonstrations that might result in response to controversial speech. It was not appropriate for campus representatives to suggest that the student group would be obligated to pay for additional security needed because of a protest that was anticipated. The students will not, in fact, be charged for additional security associated with anticipated demonstrators when the event is rescheduled and occurs.

Unfortunately, this apparently referred only to the police security costs (which I should note are the great majority of the costs). UCLA will still require the student group to pay for private security guards, chiefly to be present inside — to eject hecklers, to deter hecklers and hooligans, and to make other students feel safe. The guards cost about $20/hour per guard, and for a 1.5-hour debate they'd need to be present for about 3 hours. The required number of guards will turn on the protests' likely magnitude and nature of the protests, which in turn flow from the viewpoint of one of the debaters.

I couldn't get a good estimate of how many guards would likely be needed (that apparently won't be available until the school consults again with the club and with the UC Police Department), but if 20 were required, that would end up costing $1200 or so, not a small amount for a student group. The group would have to get outside funding for that, though it's possible that UCLA student government would defray some of that from funds available to student groups. (I'm told by the UCLA people that historically the government has offered anywhere from a very small amount to a bit above $1000 for events generally. In principle the student government must be viewpoint-neutral in its funding decisions, but I'm not sure how it is in practice, and in any event such a requirement is very hard to enforce in discretionary judgment such as student government funding decisions.) L.O.G.I.C. reports that they have rescheduled the debate for May 1, and that they will be able to fund the security guards; but they will bear a cost, and a cost that stems from the possibility that thugs will try to disrupt the event.

So those are what seem to me to be the facts. Now to my thoughts on how the First Amendment and academic freedom principles play out here.

1. If the event took place in a traditional public forum, such as on a sidewalk or in a park, the government would not be allowed to charge organizers money (or require organizers to spend money) when the amount was based on the expected public reaction to the speech. That's the holding of Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement (1992), which struck down a permitting scheme that did turn on the likely security costs:

The fee assessed will depend on the administrator's measure of the amount of hostility likely to be created by the speech based on its content. Those wishing to express views unpopular with bottle throwers, for example, may have to pay more for their permit.

Although [the county] agrees that the cost of policing relates to content, it contends that the ordinance is content neutral because it is aimed only at a secondary effect — the cost of maintaining public order. It is clear, however, that, in this case, it cannot be said that the fee's justification "'ha[s] nothing to do with content.'"

The costs to which petitioner refers are those associated with the public's reaction to the speech. Listeners' reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation. Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.... This Court has held time and again: "Regulations which permit the Government to discriminate on the basis of the content of the message cannot be tolerated under the First Amendment."

2. Nonetheless, this event would not take place in a traditional public forum, which must remain open for untrammeled public speech. It is to take place in a university building that the university has opened up to student speech. Such a building is a "designated public forum," and while viewpoint-based restrictions are generally impermissible even in a designated public forum, content-based or speaker-based limitations on the forum (e.g., "we'll open this forum only for curriculum-related speech," "we'll open this forum only for student-run groups," or likely "we'll open this forum only for speech that doesn't involve profanity") are permissible.

Would fees or spending requirements based on the likely response to a group's viewpoints be viewpoint-based, and thus unconstitutional even in a designated public forum? Or would they just be content-based limitations on the forum and thus constitutional, since the university doesn't care at all about the debaters' viewpoints as such but only about the possible misconduct that the debaters may arouse among their enemies? I think the answer is that they would be viewpoint-based and therefore impermissible, but the viewpoint-based/viewpoint-neutral distinction is notoriously vague and underdefined in cases such as this one, so the answer is not clear.

3. But it seems to me that regardless of the First Amendment outcome, academic freedom principles should lead the university to pay all the security costs itself. It looks like L.O.G.I.C. will be able to pay for the private security; but many groups might not be able to, and even L.O.G.I.C. might not be able to pay if the expected counterprotest is large enough. Sometimes, the thugs' threatened disruption would get the event shut down, or at least moved off campus to a park.

So the question is: Should the university let the thugs drive debate on important and controversial issues off the university campus? I think the answer is that it should not.

I sympathize with the desire to save money that could be used for other academic purposes. I sympathize with the concern about violence (though I think it's to the university's credit that it will pay the great majority of the costs of deterring and containing the possible violence, rather than blocking the event or requiring student groups to pay for police protection).

Still, it seems to me most important that the university take a stand, even at some cost, in favor of protecting free speech and against those who are threatening to disrupt the speech. If the university doesn't do it, and the thugs win, that will just promote more thuggery in the future. Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated.

Recall also that, thanks to Chancellor Abrams' sound decision to provide police protection at UC expense, the debate now is over sums that are relatively modest for the university. But the sums are not modest for the groups involved, and may in fact lead to some events' being canceled. If $1000-2000 extra for the relatively rare event that requires a good deal of security is the price to be spent for defending free debate at the university against the goons, that seems to me a price the university should be willing to pay.

I don't know what the point is of pontificating at length in a purportedly academic and thoughtful fashion, if you're going to end up framing the issue as "gee, should we let the thugs shut down free speech, or not?" Any demagogue could do as well.
3.19.2007 8:32pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Hmm, do you have some specific arguments about exactly why my legal analysis, my academic freedom analysis, or my framing of the academic freedom issue is mistaken? It seems to me that the question is indeed whether we should let the thugs shut down free speech, and that the answer is no, for the reasons I touch on in the last few paragraphs. Perhaps I'm wrong, but can you explain please why I'm wrong? Simply calling one's adversary a "demagogue" is not itself much of an argument.
3.19.2007 8:40pm
Gil Milbauer (mail) (www):
I don't understand why the university makes a distinction between indoor and outdoor security.

Can't the university enforce its standards of behavior for sanctioned discussions indoors as well as outdoors?

Perhaps the standards might differ a bit depending on the event, but surely preventing disruptions to discussions should be fairly easy to define and enforce.

And, I agree with the analysis that the university has an interest, and obligation, to prevent the silencing of debate on campus by thugs.
3.19.2007 8:51pm
Alan Gura:
The government could solve this problem, and save a great deal of money in the long run, by aggressively prosecuting the "thuggish behavior." Getting arrested and spending a few hours in a holding tank may be a badge of honor for some of the troublemakers. Six months in county jail is a different proposition.
3.19.2007 9:03pm
Truth Seeker:
If security costs came out of the general student activity budget then thuggish behavior would hurt all students, as it should. So even sympathizers of thugs would not encourage their behavior since it would cost them money as well. (Since the budget for all student activities would be smaller.)
3.19.2007 9:23pm
Truth Seeker,

If the event were limited to students only I suppose that would be a more reasonable argument. But many of these jerks will be from off campus and couldn't care less about the budget for student activities.

I agree with Alan Gura. These people should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The fact that someone, somewhere is saying something you don't like is not a valid excuse for breaking the law.
3.19.2007 9:31pm
Alan has it right, prosecute the thugs -- and sue them for the cost of security.
3.19.2007 9:37pm

"[h]ate speech is not free speech."

People who say things like that scare me. I certainly hope that illiberals like that never succeed in co-opting "free speech" to mean exactly its opposite.
3.19.2007 9:50pm
AdamL (www):
Professor Volokh,

It's unclear why you think "fees or spending requirements based on the likely response to a group's viewpoints" are viewpoint based responses when such restrictions would apply to both sides of the debates if the facts were reversed. Does viewpoint analysis operate in a vacuum outside of UCLA's motives for requiring the group to pay for fees?

Here, UCLA is making the student group pay for security without reference to the viewpoint of the student group. By "without reference," I mean it seems that UCLA would force this burden on either side of the debate, thus making it at most a content based restriction.

Sometimes courts are willing to look behind the regulation to the motives of those enforcing or drafting the regulation and sometimes they aren't. It seems like a good idea to take into account the motives of UCLA when (1) no viewpoint based regulation exists and (2) the decision is basically an administrative one.
3.19.2007 10:04pm
The Ace (mail) (www):
Another example of tolerance by the party of hate.
3.19.2007 10:14pm
Russ (mail):
Free speech for me, but not for thee...

There are lots of things I could potentially call hate speech, like saying my beloved Carolina Panthers are chronic underachievers. Would that give me the right to shut it down should I get the power to do so?

Universities are supposed to be places where controversial ideas are debated. If not there, then where?
3.19.2007 10:26pm
Bozoer Rebbe (mail) (www):
Can you sue an individual for depriving you of your First Amendment rights. Prof. Volokh, could you do it as a tort?
3.19.2007 10:26pm
hey (mail):
They shouldn't get 6 months in county. These "people" at IndyMedia are conspiring to Riot, as well as conspiring to violate the civil rights of the speakers and the groups hosting the event. They should be dealt with like the rioting scum that they are: shot if they do not disperse and prosecuted for the conspiracy to committ a number of felonies that they are a part of, demonstrated by their participation in the protest. All protesters should be jointly and severally liable both criminally and civilly for the behavior of each person who participates in the protest.

Rioting is now viewed as good fun, rather than the direct threat to the Republic and the attempted insurrection that it truly is. Communist terrorists hav served in the German government, and Clinton pardoned terrorists in the US. The ongoing rebellion in the US needs to be ended, and dealing with rioting scum would be an excellent start.
3.19.2007 10:32pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):

You ignore the effects of the past decisions, acts and failures to act by a given campus' administration. A new facially neutral policy isn't neutral given a past record of bias, particularly in not enforcing regulations at all against transgressors attacking a different faction, while enforcing every regulation that exists and many that don't against the disfavored faction.

This sort of thing is why the federal Voting Rights Act was enacted.

Context is important here.
3.19.2007 10:40pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
You know if a bunch of conservative students conspired to shut down some black socialist lesbian's poetry reading, the University would be eager to expel the students, instead of putting the costs on a left-wing group.

Unequal enforcement on that end means that a facially neutral policy of everyone pays for their own security is not actually fair or neutral.

And the same leftists that so desperately want to ignore this free speech issue would have no problem at all figuring that out if the university was discriminating against leftards in the same fashion.

"Sorry, ladies, you can't 'take back the night' unless you're willing to pay $25,000"

And what would L.O.G.I.C. even be getting for its $12,000? NOTHING. The private security would be under orders not to intervene unless acts of violence took place. They just stand there while hecklers disrupt the debate, or idiots rush the stage, etc.

The proper response to this is for L.O.G.I.C. to respond in kind. Videotape the disruptions at their own events, video tape the security guards doing nothing, post it on YouTube, and then show up at leftard events and start doing the exact same thing. Will the university actually be hypocritical enough to enforce their anti-heckling rules against L.O.G.I.C. but not against other groups? Let's find out! L.O.G.I.C. should be sure to purchase some private security muscle of their own when it shows up at someone else's event.
3.19.2007 11:05pm
J.N. Heath:

Eugene's report begs a question: who are these private security guards? If the sponsoring group must resort to self-help, what prevents controversial presentations from becoming confrontations between opposing groups of brownshirts?

I would think the university would have a strong interest in discouraging self-help on the part of the sponsoring group, by providing adequate security.

JN Heath
3.19.2007 11:10pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):

Since conservatives and libertarians are much better armed and equipped in America than the commies, socialist police services should step back and let the market handle these little conflicts. After a few interactions, the commies will settle down.

As someone who once defended with firearms a free speech forum in the People's Republic of SF against left anachist disruption (no shots were fired -- no commies were permanently injured), I can report that private defense services can be effective in these cases.
3.19.2007 11:12pm
Sean M:
I cannot speak for UCLA, but to answer the concern above, at least at my College (where I serve on the Student Finance Board, the group that allocates money to various student events), "private security" is usually t-shirted students who serve as extra eyes and ears and as a "presence" for the police. In other words, they might try to ask someone to get back from the stage, but if something really bad happened (someone gets violent) they simply fetch the police.

I am sympathetic with the Professor's position, to the point of agreeing with it, but how does this rule handle the following scenario as part of the test suite (a term I know Professor Volokh appreciates):

An organization chooses the most controversial, most vile, most hateful speaker it can find for the purpose of "sparking debate," knowing very well it will draw /many/ protesters and the speaker will require a good deal of security. If an organization intentionally sticks its head into the mouth of the lion, should they be liable for the cost of that speaker's security, or should the College be obligated to do so. Note that the College never asked for the speaker, it was thrust onto them by the student group.

A College might not bring a speaker because his airfare is too high, or his demand for a hotel are too high, or his honorarium is too high. Is there a point where a College can refuse a speaker because his estimated security bill is too high?

I ask this as a legitimate question, not as a debating point. I simply do not know the answer.
3.19.2007 11:25pm
So the question is: Should the university let the thugs drive debate on important and controversial issues off the university campus?

That's a question?! Who would seriously maintain that the university should permit such a result?

Of what relevance is the "viewpoint-based" or "content-based" distinction when a university hosts speakers and there will be costs for security that somebody must pay? Is that "viewpoint-based" or "content-based" distinction of any consequence for UCLA? If it so, then what consequence, and would it still if UCLA were a private rather than "public" university (part of the University of California system)?

What keeps UCLA from frustrating those who would "shut down" the event by denying those not its students, staff or invitees access to the campus or admission to the hall where the event is to take place, and prosecuting as trespassers those who would come on the school's property without its permission? Can't those who make clear their intent to disrupt or who become disruptive after they have been allowed in be told by security to leave forthwith, and if they do not comply, then be arrested?

UCLA must count the provision of adequate security on occasions like this one as a "cost of doing business" as a university, though the University of Phoenix may not be similarly obliged.

But it is a different aspect of "academic freedom" that I think more problematic for the school, that being what to do with its own students and staff who might try to deny other members of the academic community their "academic freedom" to host and hear controversial speakers. Ought a student who stands up in the middle of the program and tries to prevent it from going ahead be severely disciplined, perhaps suspended or even expelled if it is not a first-time offense? What about a faculty member or encourages or even helps organize efforts to disrupt? (OK to march about with protest signs outside the hall, but not to keep others from going in, harassing others, trying to drown out the speakers, etc.)

Professor Volokh, you quickly dismissed Asaf Romirowsky's essay in the Washington Times about "scholar activists." Going off in something of a jag about unfettered free speech as essential to "academic freedom," you never dealt with the issue of "scholar activists," those who don't just advocate for their own political positions but who would deny those who disagreed with them their "academic freedom" in any of a number of ways (e.g., turn their classrooms into "bully pulpits," deny others opportunities to serve on journal editorial boards and publish their own scholarly products, block hiring or promotions on "ideologic" grounds rather than merit, etc.) "Academic freedom" affords "scholar activists" almost limitless protection within academia? What about my hypothetical with a faculty member who would lend themselves to a "shoutdown/shutdown" effort like the one threatened at UCLA? Would "academic freedom" protect "activism" that was not itself consistent with scholarship (conveying knowledge through teaching and/or publishing; increasing the sum of knowledge through research; contributing to the life of the academy) up until the point the "activism" crossed over into frank illegality, moral turpitude, or the like?

An unequivocal "NO" to thuggery from without or within academia!

(EV, please look at the Romirowsky piece again, and this time consider the first 7 or so paragraphs, which you skipped over before. He cited instances elsewhere when invited speakers were denied the opportunity to speak on campuses. True, Romirowsky didn't develop his points about "scholar activists" as fully as he might have, and his focus on "anti-Zionist" examples may have particularized the generalizable. His case, though, ought not be dismissed as nothing more than that of a partisan or yahoo.)
3.19.2007 11:29pm
Dick Schweitzer (mail):
Numerous scenarios can be imagined, but sticking to these circumstances: Could they not limit attendance to the UCLA Community (students/faculty); then reward wildly disruptive behavior with expulsion or termination. Be civil or be gone!
No violence within the Community.
3.19.2007 11:33pm

"[h]ate speech is not free speech."

People who say things like that scare me. I certainly hope that illiberals like that never succeed in co-opting "free speech" to mean exactly its opposite.

Perhaps they were doing a market analysis, perhaps they were saying there is always a huge cost (to who, probably society if I were go guess) to hate speach. You can parse their main comment many ways.
3.20.2007 12:43am
These comments are outstanding even by the VC's usual standards of nuttiness. Wow.
3.20.2007 12:51am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Steve: Can I ask you again if you can elaborate on your criticisms? So far, I see that you think the post is demagogic and the comments are nutty. What I don't see is an explanation of exactly what you think is unsound about the post and the comments -- an argument, rather than just epithets. Can you elaborate, please? Thanks,

3.20.2007 1:03am
Is there a point where a College can refuse a speaker because his estimated security bill is too high?
No, not really. If there were, any nut could shut down any speaker merely by threatening to cause more than n dollars of disruption. If n is high enough (compared to the credibility of the threat), the nut would never even have to follow through.

More generally, it is not worthwhile to pay any extortion you can afford to resist, even if the immediate cost-benefit ratio is unfavorable. Kipling gave a detailed explanation in rhyme:
We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!
3.20.2007 1:12am
Kai Bugge (mail):
The enforcement of law is the proper responsibility of government, not private citzens. I am all for privatizing non-essential government functions, but the protection of free speech is not something to be privatized. I'm surprised you are even debating this. Would you debate wheter a private citizen should pay for his own protection if she was threatened with rape from some individual? or would you insist that such a protection should be provided by the government (i.e. police)? I think the latter.
3.20.2007 1:30am
Daniel950 (mail):

Would you debate wheter a private citizen should pay for his own protection if she was threatened with rape from some individual?

I don't debate it. Everyone should pay for his own protection. Everyone should own a gun.
3.20.2007 1:42am
Sean M:
A sensible difference might be, to try to answer my own question:

There are times when a speaker up-front demands X protection, either because he is paranoid, or he feels it necessary. For example, many controversial speakers or really, to pick someone who always asks for security, bands, require certain security precautions from the purchaser. We might legitimately turn down these people because the cost and/or difficulty of providing for the demanded security is too high.

Other times, like in this case, the heightened security is needed because some thugs have threatened to shut down the talk if it goes forward. In these cases, it's legitimate to demand the College pay for the additional necessary precautions as the price of protecting free speech.

As a side note, I am baffled by those who are astonished at the concept of private security. In most cases, it is just people in t-shirts saying "SECURITY" on them that, as I mentioned before, serve as extra eyes and ears. They're common at some speakers, but far more so at concerts, where they see most employment.
3.20.2007 2:08am
orson23 (mail):
Far be for me to fault a pro-freedom analysis, especially one by Professor Volokh. But my understanding of academes trouble with freedom begins with the past two decades transition from liberal tolerance to requiring acceptance of any group deemed marginalized.

In this Orwellian mindset, summed up by the term "political correctness," some animals are more equal than others. And anyone who questions this New Order is guilty of hate speech or racism or unredeemable bigotry. At any rate, the promotion of real debate and real tolerance is no longer a priority in academe - thought control is.

Thus, incidents like the above are frequent today, if not commonplace in the university. Self-censorship is now prized above free-thinking. Take another incredible "for instance." The case at Missouri State University, where a Christian social work student wast required - REQUIRED - to lobby the state legislature to accept homosexual adopting parents. Penalized for refusing to conform to these dictates, she sued.

Orwellian thought control has replaced classical liberal values, and the declining reputation of the university - along with increasing disdain for elites - has proceeded apace. Deservedly so.
3.20.2007 5:12am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I am afraid that "Steve" is what is known as a "troll". He has nothing to say but just tries to be provocative. Fortunately trolls seem to be rare here.
3.20.2007 6:30am
Chris W:
I think many universities require groups holding large events to pay for security guards, regardless of the type of event or its contents. I wonder if that is all that is happening.
3.20.2007 9:12am
Out of curiosity, does anyone think the Minutemen represent hate speech? I've never heard anything from them that comes close -- it seems like their views are tolerably mainstream, and that people from a lot of backgrounds could sign on without any major cognitive dissonance.

This is a whole different ballgame from having the local chapter of the KKK come in and give a speech on bringing back lynching. If a student group tried to host such an event, the university would be entirely justified in making it pay for its own security. More than that -- it would be justified in telling the group that such an event is contrary to university policy and will not be permitted. There are anti-immigration groups that might fall into this category as well -- I think one is called Border Guardians -- but the Minutemen seem to have a different agenda.

I suggest that people who can't make the distinction between political debate and calls for violence do not belong in college (or running a college, for that matter).
3.20.2007 9:41am
Jack Haley (mail):
It would seem to me the way to control thugs is to place yourself in a position where you have leverage. Alan Gura's point is valid -- clearly it is appropriate to punish the thugs by insisting on harsher punishment than an overnight in jail and a 10 second TV spot.

If the event is held on University property or in a University facility then I think is is appropriate to restrict attendance to students and faculty thereby eliminating the off-campus thugs. The people in attendance -- should they become thuggish are subject to the rules and standards established by the institution -- they can be admonished, suspended, expelled or fired. If the institution or sponsoring group desires the session may be recorded and wider distribution to include the off-campus thugs can be made.
3.20.2007 10:39am
Tennwriter (mail):
I'm tempted to disagree with the poster on the KKK idea. Despicable as they are, they too have the right to free speech. And since academic freedom is a stronger case than merely the First Amendment, I'd have to say the University would have to protect them as well.

Its a simple rule: You or anyone else is not allowed to be a thug. Period. It doesn't matter if it really is hate speech like ANSWER or Neonazi's instead of the rather defensible Minuteman or the somewhat useful, somewhat odd Randians.

The government has a responsibility to enforce order.

I suspect Randians and Minutemen would have lot fewer problems, as I would, with the government if it it did its basic job well, instead of expanding all over the place, and doing everything at best half-baked.
3.20.2007 10:44am
Steve: Can I ask you again if you can elaborate on your criticisms?

My point was, EV, that you have an otherwise intelligent discussion of various issues, but ultimately dismiss them all as irrelevant and simply boil the issue down to "should thugs be allowed to stifle free speech?" Mind you, I agree with you on the merits, but I still dislike this sort of glib reduction of an interesting debate to a loaded question that can only be answered one way.

Why are the protesters "thugs"? Because we know of their intention to "shut down" the debate? While the characterization might be fair in this case, it's easy to imagine the exact same scenario, with the exact same need for security, but without the express (and clumsy) declaration of intent. Would the result be different? I don't think so.

It doesn't seem to me that you grapple very seriously with any opposing arguments. If the university is obligated to bear all the security costs associated with an event like this, are there any bad consequences that might ensue? Will it make universities more likely to eschew all sorts of controversy on the grounds that controversy drains the budget? Will it encourage the university to use other means of shutting down dissent that we might find more objectionable than hiring security forces?

While the First Amendment issues are interesting, by the end of the post, you've set all that aside to boil the issue down to "should we let the terrorists win?" Would you ever frame an exam question, or a writing assignment, in such a one-sided fashion? If your belief is that declining to pay the security costs amounts to "letting thugs shut down free speech" - and, like I said, I pretty much agree with you (although it's pretty easy for me to spend other people's money) - then the post could have been a lot shorter and equally illuminating. It's like you spent pages purporting to engage in a dispassionate analysis and then concluded by saying "but none of that matters, since I'm going with my gut here."
3.20.2007 11:02am
David Maquera (mail) (www):
With all the money universities are gouging students and taxpayers for today, they can certainly afford to pay for security to promote the First Amendment on campus.
3.20.2007 11:18am
Sk (mail):
Who should pay for security?
The government. Not the organization bringing in the speaker, not the university.
Our society has decided that rioting or threats of violence qualify as acceptable behavior (i.e. behavior as speech).
We have also decided that free genuine speech (i.e. talking by people) should be universally (or very nearly unversally) accepted.
Thus, we should also pay the costs for allowing these two principles to coexist.
It would be absurd to say that speech is constitutionally protected, and rioting by opposition to that speech is protected, but the costs of maintaining security of the speech itself should be born by the speaker, or the sponsor of the speaker, or the proponent of the speaker, or any other individual or organization. This simply makes speech de facto not free (as you have discussed, its actually quite expensive).
You could make the claim that state-sponsored universities are in fact 'the government,' and I'd buy it (depending on the specific funding arrangement at the school).

But if free speech requires expensive security, its not free-whether its paid for by a rich individual/organization (i.e. the university) or paid for by a poor individual/organization (i.e. the conservative group sponsoring the speech). Free speech is a shared benefit, its costs should be shared as well.

3.20.2007 11:21am
I might agree with Tennwriter if the KKK representative wanted to speak about, say, education, and argue that segregated schools are really better for children of ALL races. I doubt that would happen, but there is enough wiggle room on the benefits of integration that that one squeaks in.

However, I stand by my initial statement about a speaker who advocates lynching, actual violence against immigrants, or terrorism. Opposing immigration is a legitimate political position. Shooting people on the suspicion that they might be illegal immigrants is not, and advocates of such actions do not merit protection on grounds of academic freedom.

You could make the same argument about abortion. A university should permit pro-life speakers, but would be well within its right to bar the door to anyone who advocates murdering doctors who perform abortions. Whether the ban should be limited to advocates of murder becomes a more interesting question. I'd be inclined to extend it to anyone who advocates any attack against persons or serious property damage like bombing or arson. I wouldn't extend it to people who advocate very minor property vandalism or passive civil disobedience. People who go around "liberating" animals from labs are the hard test case for me -- don't know which way I would call that one.
3.20.2007 11:22am
Yankev (mail):
Why are the protesters "thugs"? Because we know of their intention to "shut down" the debate?

Because of their intent -- in this case announced -- to use unlawful violence and threats of unlawful violence to silence viewpoints that they do not care for, in order to prevent others from expressing or hearing those viewpoints.

Take yourself back to 1962 and imagine a group of students wanting to invite Martin Luther King to address them. Would we be debating whether the students could be forced to pay for private security to protect against attacks by the KKK or similar groups? Would we be quibbling over whether it was accurate or fair to describe those groups as thugs? To ask the question, as Justice Cardozo might say, is to answer it.
3.20.2007 11:33am
JosephSlater (mail):
I won't speak for Steve, and I thought E.V.'s original post was fine. But seriously, E.V., you don't see some "nuttiness" in at least two different commenters calling literally for shooting protesters; references (anachronistic at best) to the protesters as "commies"; comments attributing the position of the protesters to "liberals" in general and in one case, the Democratic Party?
3.20.2007 11:33am
Houston Lawyer:
Are there any examples of intimidation by threat of riot by right-wing or nativist groups? I am not aware of any. This is just a tactic of rowdy lefties to stifle debate.

I agree with the posters above that prosecution and expulsion would adequately deal with the issue. However, university administrations have a long history of tolerating bad behavior from leftist agitators.
3.20.2007 11:34am
Stacy (mail) (www):
Steve: "Why are the protesters "thugs"? Because we know of their intention to "shut down" the debate?"


"While the characterization might be fair in this case, it's easy to imagine the exact same scenario, with the exact same need for security, but without the express (and clumsy) declaration of intent. Would the result be different?"

No, it would still be a heckler's veto, the practitioners of which are enemies of freedom regardless of their own politics or the merits of the speech they are assaulting.

From a practical standpoint it's crazy anyway to make a person's ability to speak contingent on them paying for protection. It only takes common sense to see that would give thugs the ability to shut down opposition speech just by threatening violence. Some parts of the world operate on that principle, but not this part.
3.20.2007 11:36am
Tennwriter (mail):
I will agree that Free Speech is limited to not calling for violence. However, if the KKK wanted to...oh, have a speaker calling for the mass deportation of Blacks, Catholics, and Jews to somewhere else, I'd have to say thats protected by the First.

As to vandalism--no. Again this is illegal.

Passive civil disobedience--hmmm, I'd say calling for it is probably illegal as well. Buts thats rather the point of Passive civil disobedience to shame an uncaring society into caring you voluntarily put yourself in a place where you expect to get arrested.

As to animal rights liberations--haven't you seen 28 Days? My goodness man! The horror you propose to unleash on us all! :)
3.20.2007 11:37am
MnZ (mail):

Alan Gura's point is valid -- clearly it is appropriate to punish the thugs by insisting on harsher punishment than an overnight in jail and a 10 second TV spot.

Couldn't California pass a law that would deal with willful and malicious disruption at UCLA (and other state universities) harshly (e.g., real jail time, $15,000 fines)? That way, UCLA could allow even non-students to come to the event.
3.20.2007 11:43am
RE: Civil Disobedience--This can be a principled position, though I would say that it is so only when one is resisting actions, not speech. There is no record of Thoreau, MLK, or CORE calling for a sit-in that would block the entrance to a lecture hall. At least to my knowledge.

BUT--MLK and Thoreau understood that REAL prison time was a consequence of willfully violating law, even law that one considers unjust. There was a big difference between those who went to prison instead of Vietnam, and those who went to Canada. And had a much larger number of "draft resisters" actually stayed and gone thorugh the courts, the pressure and publicity might have ended the war ealier.

To shut down a talk, and then walk away accomplishes nothing. Except harming campus free speech.

Also Sprach Hoosier (Inspired by The Dog)
3.20.2007 11:52am
submandave (mail) (www):
Steve, it seems to me the distinction between "protester" and "thug" is specifically the intent and liklihood of violence. If those opposed to a particular program or speech only wished to express their counterpoint in demonstration there would be no need for additional security. It is, rather, both the implied threat and historical track record of violence at similar "protests" from which the additional security costs arise. So, while I agree that EV's question is more a rhetorical device than an actual query, it's point is not so much to drive discussion of "should" but, rather, "how."

As to the question of how, an obvious answer is the one Alan mentioned early in the thread, to make the cost of violating the peace and other's civil rights sufficiently high to deter all but the most recalcitrant. Stiffer criminal penalties for those detained in acts of violent protest is one measure, but is really closing the barn door after the cows are out and does nothing to address the real issue of limited campus security resources. With this, alone, protecting free speech becomes a battle of attrition. While I'm not a lawyer, I would imagine that the apparent conspiracy of IndyMedia users to "shut down" such events could fall under RICO laws. This path, itself, is strewn with First Amendment land mines, but fighting words and incitement to criminal activity have traditionally not enjoyed such protection.

So, moving past EV's rhetorical device, Steve, why not address the real question, which is how can a University, or society on a whole, protect and preserve free speech by proactively dealing with those who would use violence or the threat of violence to deny it without supressing other's legitimate First Amendment rights.
3.20.2007 11:52am
submandave (mail) (www):

While I'm not sure that I agree with your general premise, I definitely disagree with some particulars. If you propose a "ban", the only logical place to draw the line, as member of a functioning society, is where society has already drawn this line. Advocation of criminal activity is where we, as a society, have already declared our limits to be. Any other line would be based upon individual interpretation of morality, which seems particularly inappropriate as related to a state university.

As you said, a pro-life speaker that advocates killing abortionists would be out of bounds. However, a pro-life speaker that advocates a death penalty for abortionists would be acceptable, as they would not be advocating criminal activity but, rather, a change to the legal procecess. While one may have the same moral objections to both goals the distinction between the paths to these goals is not inconsequential.
3.20.2007 12:05pm
So, moving past EV's rhetorical device, Steve, why not address the real question, which is how can a University, or society on a whole, protect and preserve free speech by proactively dealing with those who would use violence or the threat of violence to deny it without supressing other's legitimate First Amendment rights.

Well, that's a very good question, obviously. The problem with harsher punishments is that there can be a fine line between legitimate counter-protest and thuggery, and you don't want to chill legitimate free speech by creating the threat of draconian punishment if someone comes too close to the line. (Think of, for example, people who refrain from attending protests out of fear that a co-protestor may act inappropriately and everyone may get rounded up by the police as a result.) Also, I'm resistant as a general matter to the line of thought that says "the punishment we're imposing now clearly isn't doing enough to deter bad conduct, so we need to make the punishment even worse." If you indulge in that sort of thinking too much you end up with the War on Drugs.

I'm sympathetic to the argument that the university ought to pay, as academic freedom is a critical value. But I'm hesitant to join other commentors in creating an OBLIGATION to pay, because I hate the thought of the lawsuits against the government that would ensue every time some controversial speaker felt he needed more security. David Bernstein, no enemy of academic freedom he, has argued that a university shouldn't feel obligated to pick up Jimmy Carter's security bill, even if it means students will be deprived of his controversial point of view; would EV disagree with him?

Let me pose a question that I seriously don't know the answer to. When someone gets an ordinary, everyday parade permit from their local municipality, who pays for the incidental expenses? Who pays for the street to be cleaned up afterwards, who pays for the extra police officers to be on duty that day? Does the city generally say "hey, it's your right as an American to hold a peaceful parade, the taxpayers will pick up the tab"? I honestly don't know how these costs are divvied up in the customary situation.
3.20.2007 12:22pm
submandave --

I'm quite happy for univerities, including public universities, to place the line somewhere other than where it goes in criminal law. We are talking about advocacy, after all, not the acts themselves, and you get into some weird stuff in between purely passive civil disobedience and major property damage. That's why I see a gray (and possibly permissible) area for people who advocate chaining themselves to things, posting messages on other people's property, and so on. Some of that stuff may be criminal, perhaps at the misdemeanor level, but a lot of it is established protest technique. (Protesters in such cases do realize they could be punished, of course.) But I think we can agree that a campus event ban could legitimately cover anyone who advocates private violence by vigilantes.

The trouble I see is that some people seem to be arguing that campuses can't ban ANY speech-related events because they have an obligation (academic freedom) to put up with things that even the First Amendment doesn't protect. I think the opposite is true -- that campus rules can be somewhat stricter than the First Amendment. This is partly because I think universities, including public universities, are allowed to have institutional norms of their own.

Note that I don't extend this sort of thinking to speech by individual students on their own time (no speech codes for me), just to things that use university facilities, staff time, and money. ESPECIALLY when the events in question are not directly related to course content. Don't know where everyone got the idea that the political education of young people was the business of universities in the first place. It's all a big sideshow as far as I'm concerned.
3.20.2007 12:47pm
ed o:
I do find it remarkable that professors somehow manage to hold opinions that their universities are bastions of free speech and the open exchange of ideas. We know that attempts to shout down leftist speakers (not done by the right in any event in recent memory) would be met with stern rebuke while the opposite is met with yawns.
3.20.2007 12:52pm
Kent G. Budge (mail) (www):
"I wouldn't extend it to people who advocate very minor property vandalism or passive civil disobedience. People who go around "liberating" animals from labs are the hard test case for me -- don't know which way I would call that one."

Animal "liberators" can, and have, cost a research project millions of dollars and set back the research by years. That, of course, is what the "liberators" intended all along. It's not minor vandalism and it's not passive civil disobedience. In my opinion, it's a no-brainer.
3.20.2007 1:24pm
Kent G. Budge --

Again, it's not doing the act that we're discussing. It's advocating the act on campus, knowing full well that it's illegal and recognizing that people who employ this technique in the cause of animal welfare will probably go to jail.

My original question is what controversial views, if any, should be beyond the pale for student organizations to advocate at events on campus. This feeds into the larger question that started this debate off -- if an event advocating this position is permitted, is the university obliged to pay for security on the grounds that advocating such a position is covered by academic freedom? I have no difficulty saying "no" to the latter, but I remain on the fence about the former.

And it all comes back around to the kind of distinction I HOPE that universities are teaching their students. There's a difference between doing a thing, talking about a thing, getting official sponsorship to talk about a thing, and commandeering other people's resources to help you talk about a thing. Chances are there's a different cut-off point for each, even at a public university.
3.20.2007 2:21pm
submandave (mail) (www):
While I recognize that there are differences in the consequences of different criminal actions, there is also a difference between advocacy or praise of criminal activity and incitement to such activity. A firebrand speaker who quotes Shakespeare when discussing lawyers, even with open admiration for his idea, is a far cry from the leader of the torch and pitchfork mob chanting "kill the monster." As I said, I'm not sure I agree completely with your premise that the ideas and speech itself should be banned. I'm more of the mind that if there is sufficient support and interest it may be useful to welcome even extreme speech, if for no other reason than to expose those adherents. I don't think there is any obligation to seek or make special provision for any nutty idea that comes along, but if a campus organization has sufficient interest in the topic the university should try to accomodate. After all, if there were a student organization on my campus that believed strongly in eugenics or Holocaust denial or even Atlantis I'd prefer for them to let m know so I can make an informed judgement of them and their members.
3.20.2007 6:59pm
Steve, you allude to Carter's appearance at Brandeis which imposed costs on that school, which its president was none too happy about. But whereas UCLA estimated it would cost $10-12K to provide security for the planned event there, and EV thinks the hosts could have arranged security for perhaps $1,200, that is 1/10 what the university projected, the Brandeis student newspaper reported that "security and logistics" cost its much smaller, less deep-pocketed school $95K(!) out of pocket to have Carter promote his book on terms of his chosing, e.g., no debating him. [And the backlash to Carter's appearance may cost the school $Ms in donations, but that is a different story/issue.]
So, the Brandeis and UCLA cases may have commonalities, but the 80-fold difference between EV's cost estimate and Brandeis's actual experience, or even the 8 or 9-fold difference between the UCLA estimate and Brandeis's experience, surely needs to be taken into account.
I don't know whether Carter was paid to speak, and if so, how much; I assume the UCLA guests were not to be paid. ALso, I don't know how much or little security may have been provided by or demanded by the Secret Service for Carter (don't ex-prezes get lifetime SS protection?), but there were no threats to "shutdown" Carter, or at least no credible ones, whereas UCLA did have reason to anticipate trouble.
3.20.2007 8:04pm
Elliot123 (mail):
The demarcation the U draws between the outside and inside security appears to be designed to keep the U completely separate from any content oriented actions. This may be a comfortable position for the administration, but hardly a workable one.

In one case if student groups control the inside security, they are free to enforce whatever standards they choose on the speakers and audience. For example, if an audience member asks an awkward question, he could be ejected because the question does not conform to the ideology of the sponsors. This does not foster free speech.

In another case, were I a protestor who wanted to silence a speaker, I would wait until I was inside, then confront the private security rather than the university police. It's likely the inside security would be minimal if the student group had to pick up the bill, the private guards lack police authority, nd my chances of actual arrest are lower.

I also wonder what would happen if a riot ensues inside. Do U police stay outside? At what point do they enter a building, and on whose authority? How would they even know they were needed?
3.20.2007 8:37pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
references (anachronistic at best) to the protesters as "commies";

Actually the term is quite up to date. Note that the Workers World Party front organization A.N.S.W.E.R was running to small demos last Saturday.

In any case. Commie just means socialist and socialist means lefty. You know - government schools, parks, pensions, etc. Lot of socialists out there hence lots of commies. They even have a Senator these days.

I'm not wedded to firearms. Probably a trained unit wielding quarterstaffs is the best riot control technique. Deadliest non explosive/non edged weapon out there.

Those who disrupt speakers deserve what they get.
3.20.2007 10:39pm
JosephSlater (mail):

If you are serious that communist = socialist = lefty = "government schools, parks, pensions, etc." then you've just given more evidence for Steve's point about nuttiness. A public park (or for that matter, pensions for public workers_ is communism?
3.21.2007 11:46am