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UMiami agrees to pay security fee for Charles Murray talk after pressure from conservative law students

The University of Miami attempted to charge the Federalist Society about $7,600 in security costs to host Charles Murray for an upcoming debate, but accusations of political bias by the organization succeeded in convincing administrators to pick up the tab, according to the student group.

The debate is titled “The University Conundrum: Free Speech or ‘Safe’ Speech?” Murray is scheduled to debate the topic with Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at University of Miami School of Law, later this month.

Initially, the Federalist Society was told it would have to pay $7,646 in security fees for it, according to its president, law student Stephen Smith. The Federalist Society is a conservative and libertarian organization, Smith told The College Fix. 

In a letter to the dean of the law school, Patricia White, Smith and Alex Kiselev, vice president of the Federalist Society, argued the university was not being viewpoint neutral in its fee policy.

“Last year, the co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Alicia Garza, gave multiple stand-alone lectures at our University…the BLM movement was developing into one of the most powerful and controversial interest groups our nation has seen in decades…[Garza’s] controversial nature is simply not debatable. Nonetheless, we are not aware of any security costs that were charged for her individual speaking events,” according to their letter.

“This event is a debate on free speech and academic freedom,” the two law school students added. “If it cannot be held at one of Florida’s most prestigious law schools, where can it be held? By assessing unnecessary security fees against the inviting student organization in response to threats of disruption, you are effectively giving those who threaten the safety of campus a Heckler’s Veto over any topic, speaker, or discussion that they are not comfortable with.”

They go on to state Murray poses no threat to the school.

“[Murray] is not a danger to the welfare of University students; he is not a speaker that warrants almost $8,000 in security costs. He is an elderly academic that poses no risk to the University’s operations…These security fees are only setting a bad precedent at Miami Law that conservative/libertarian leaning organizations will have to pay to play whereas other organizations are entitled to explore ideas free of charge, indeed with support from the school,” their email stated.

Kiselev told The College Fix that after the society sent their complaint to campus leaders, the group heard back from administrators, who agreed to shoulder the security costs.

According to Kiselev, the costs will be split between the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of the Provost, and the law school.

A University of Miami’s spokesperson told The College Fix that the school values the First Amendment.

“The university is committed to the principles of free speech and to fostering respectful discourse on controversial topics. The university continues to work with the Miami Law Federalist Society, the student organization that invited Dr. Murray to speak at the university in a debate on Free Speech on Campus between Dr. Murray and Miami Law Professor Mary Anne Franks,” the spokesman said in an email to The Fix. 

Dean White did not respond to a request from The College Fix seeking comment.

Last year, Murray gave a speech at Middlebury College in Vermont, where approximately 67 students received punishments for violent, disruptive actions.

Protesters had pulled fire alarms to interrupt his speech, and as Murray was leaving they began to shove him and one of his faculty interviewers. The interviewer, Allison Stanger, had her hair pulled so hard by a student that she suffered a concussion and ended up in a neckbrace. As Murray and his team drove away, protesters pushed the car back and forth as well as jumped on the hood.

MORE: Prof injured in Middlebury riot tells Congress free speech is ‘national security’ issue

IMAGE: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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About the Author
Drew Van Voorhis -- San Diego State University