University of Cincinnati sued over $11K security fee for speaker visit
- Controversial campus antagonist Richard Spencer is suing the University of Cincinnati for charging an $11,000 security fee in association with his request to host a campus event, reports the Associated Press. Spencer’s lawyers said that the prohibitive fee violated his right to free speech.
- The lawsuit demands $2 million in damages, attorney fees, and a directive ordering the university to rent the space for a reasonable price.
- Leaders at the University of Cincinnati said the fee is only a small portion of the estimated security costs associated with Spencer’s planned visit, and argued the college must balance free speech with its responsibility to student safety. Spencer's visit to the University of Virginia last year led to massive protests which resulted in three deaths, dozens of injuries and thousands of dollars of damage to the campus.
In wake of fiercely charged debates about racism, sexual assault and student debt, campus protests have become a safety and security issue, as well as, battlegrounds for free speech. Apart from the physical threat, campus protests carry with them high security costs. But college administrators are not likely to get a break on campus protests and controversy in 2018; in fact, with Spencer in particular planning to double down on campus visits this year, promising to fight to the full extent of the law any attempts to block him, it seems the aim may actually be to provoke conflict.
Boards of Trustees will have to work closely together with presidents and other campus officials, as well as lobbying legislators for leniency to make decisions on the use of campus space that are in the best interest of the institution. And, when protests inevitably arise, it will take a full team approach to address issues arising from campus protests and employ a sensible, hands on approach to each situation. Taking into account student concerns, the right to free speech and campus security, university leaders can ease tensions by being proactive in their responses to such outbursts, facilitating dialogue and being responsive to student needs. With 23 states introducing bills regarding free speech, many aimed to limit institutional autonomy around controversial speakers, state lawmakers are watching how institutions deal with controversial visitors.
- Diverse: Issues In Higher Education Campus Sued Over Security Cost for White Nationalist’s Visit