The University of Pittsburgh(UPitt) is demanding that conservative students pay over $18,000 in security and damage fees caused by riots surrounding an event featuring Daily Wire host Michael Knowles, despite school officials allegedly encouraging the protests.
On April 18, the College Republican chapter and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) hosted conservative commentator Michael Knowles for a debate with BASED Politics co-founder Brad Polumbo on the issue of transgenderism, while over 250 protesters set off smoke bombs, fireworks and burned an effigy of Knowles. Several university officials expressed displeasure that the event was taking place and encouraged the protesters resulting in the university demanding thousands in damages and security costs from the chapter, according to a demand letter from Alliance Defending Freedom. (RELATED: Student Explains Meltdown Over Michael Knowles On College Campus)
“On March 10, the University issued a Press Release calling the April 18 Event ‘toxic and hurtful for many people in our University community,’” the letter reads. “On March 16, Provost [Ann] Cudd referred to a recent speech by Michael Knowles as ‘repugnant’ and ‘hate-filled rhetoric’ in a message she sent the Pitt Community. And on April 14, Professor Mahoney advised her students that ‘[t]he Theatre Arts department, along with many other departments, students, faculty, and staff at Pitt, strongly condemns this event and has called on the University to cancel Knowles’ appearance due to his history of spreading hate speech and inciting violence against trans people’ … and invited students to participate in ‘several events planned for Tuesday, April 18.’”
The letter noted that despite university officials allegedly “inciting” students to riot, UPitt informed ISI on May 19 that it would be responsible for the $18,734 in security and damage fees and demanded a few weeks later that the transfer of the funds be made “very soon.” ADF argued that the university’s “wide and boundless discretion” to decide what is considered a security fee is “fraught with problems” and pointed to a contract signed by UPitt that states the school would be responsible for “all… security personnel deemed necessary by the university.”
ADF Senior Counsel Philip A. Sechler said in a press release that the university was violating the First Amendment by trying to discourage conservative events through “outrageous” fees.
“This is exactly the type of suppression the First Amendment forbids,” Sechler said. “Implementing such security fees as part of an attempt to shut down a legitimate campus event is what’s known as a ‘heckler’s veto,’ an action which unconstitutionally allows those who oppose certain speech to censor it simply by protesting it. We urge Pitt officials to swiftly rescind this unlawful fee and amend their policies to protect every student’s freedom of speech.”
ADF and UPitt did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
Originally published by The Daily Caller. Republished with permission. Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact email@example.com.
For more great content from School Reform News.
For more from The Heartland Institute.