Colleges Struggle to Reconcile First Amendment and Public Safety

, Accuracy in Academia, 1 Comment

After the Charlottesville, Virginia protests that resulted in the death of a counter-protester, college administrators are afraid of how to handle controversial speakers on their campuses in 2018. Primarily, colleges are worried about Richard Spencer, an outspoken white supremacist.

A booker for Spencer sued multiple universities, Penn State, Ohio State and the University of Florida, for denying him a public platform to speak, or in other words, to exercise his right to the First Amendment and the freedom of speech and expression. The University of Cincinnati was also sued for having the “unconstitutional” price tag of over $10,000 for security for Spencer’s speech. The University of Florida complied with his demands, after being sued, and the price tag for renting an on-campus venue and security amounted to $600,000.

The speech at the University of Florida did have some violence, where a white supremacist was sucker-punched and three Texas men were arrested and charged with attempted murder when one of the men fired a shot at counter-protesters. Over 1,000 police officers were providing security for the speech, complete with fenced-in assembly areas and aerial police observers.

This is a worrying trend for speakers on college campuses. Conservative speakers are receiving similar treatment, where high security fees are the norm and where some conservative student groups are denied the access to invite a speaker to speak to their student members. However, liberal speakers are not afforded the same inconveniences and far outnumber conservative speakers at multiple colleges in the United States, such as San Diego State University.