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Bruin Republicans protest ‘unconstitutional security fee hurdles’ ahead of Ben Shapiro speech

The Bruin Republicans are fighting against what they contend is UCLA’s plans to unconstitutionally impose hefty extra security fees on them for an upcoming speech by conservative firebrand Ben Shapiro.

“These fees appear to be another attempt by the administration to limit free speech on campus,” Jordan Sadlier, president of the Bruin Republicans, told The College Fix.

Scheduled for Nov. 13, Shapiro’s speech, titled “The Rise of the Campus Fascism,” will likely deal with the issue of restricted conservative speech on college campuses. Bruin Republicans admit the event may be controversial.

“Interference is always a possibility,” a member said at their meeting Wednesday. “People have the right to peacefully protest, but we will do whatever it takes in order to make sure Ben Shapiro gets to speak.”

UCLA administration will pay for all the security fees if students, faculty and staff make up at least 70 percent of the audience. However, if that audience criteria is not met, and the campus levies extra security fees on the Bruin Republicans, that would be a violation of Supreme Court precedent, the group said.

The conservative lawfirm Alliance Defending Freedom has sent a letter to campus leaders asserting as much, adding in a news release that the student GOP political group faces “unconstitutional security fee hurdles” as a result of the audience criteria policy.

“In Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement, the Supreme Court held that a county ordinance allowing a government official unbridled discretion to establish a fee for speaking based on the estimated costs of security was unconstitutional under the First Amendment,” states the law firm’s letter to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

This 1992 Supreme Court Case ended with the conclusion that an added security fee for public protests went against the First and Fourteenth amendments because there were no “definitive standards to guide the calculation of fees” and an administrator would have to “examine the speech’s content to assess the likelihood of public hostility.”

The Bruin Republicans have called for administration to immediately rescind security fees for the Shapiro speech, create a list of objective criteria to clearly define when these fees could be levied against speakers in the future, and either revoke or amend the Registered Campus Organization policy, also known as the “RCO” policy, which states that if 70 percent of the attendees are students, faculties, or staff of UCLA, then the administration will cover the cost.

According to the Bruin Republicans, the extra security fees clause has been in effect for eight years, which has encapsulated thousands of events during this time. But in those eight years, the clause has only been used four times — twice against events spearheaded by the Bruin Republicans.

“UCLA admits that there’s ‘no way’ the student group will be able to afford the fees if charged—fees of the kind that the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear violate the First Amendment,” states Alliance Defending Freedom. “The school didn’t impose the same requirement on other events that attracted large outside audiences. In 2014, it paid $300,000 to Hillary Clinton to speak at the school. Of the 1,800 tickets for that event, 1,400 were sold to the highest bidder (mostly off-campus purchasers) and only 400 were given away to students.”

In a statement released earlier this week, the Bruin Republicans gave the UCLA administration until Friday, Oct. 27, to respond to several demands before additional action would be taken.

In an interview on October 20, 2017 with MSNBC, Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California system, said that “universities must allow provocative speakers on campus and then spend the money on security. The value we are seeking to protect, the value of free speech, the value of the First Amendment, that’s where the investment is.”

When asked about these statements, Sadlier responded: “The university should adhere to the Supreme Court decision and listen to their leader.”

It’s unclear if UCLA administration will budge on the matter, however.

UCLA spokesman Tod Tamberg told the Los Angeles Times that a speaker’s viewpoint is never considered in assessing security fees, that the “criteria used is content-neutral and viewpoint-neutral. It is neither Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal.”

He added that security costs for Shapiro’s talk had yet to be determined.

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Mark McGreal -- UCLA