At U of Miami, Free Speech Is Expensive

The Federalist Society at the University of Miami Law School proposed to bring in Charles Murray as part of a debate on free speech. Ironically enough, the university responded by charging the Federalist Society for the cost of security for the event–security made necessary by liberals’ proclivity toward violence. The tab? Nearly $8,000, a prohibitive sum for most campus groups. Goodbye, debate on free speech!

The president and vice-president of the Federalist Society sent this letter to the Dean of Miami Law School:

Dean White,

We have just received the proposed security cost estimate from the UM Police Department. We are surprised and genuinely concerned about the implications that this request has for this event, the Federalist Society, and the law school. We ask that you quickly clarify (by March 6th) that no such fee will be required. Otherwise you will be censoring free speech—more precisely a debate on free speech.

The total cost listed for security is a minimum of $7,646, guaranteed to increase with the hiring of additional wanders and bag checkers. This is unprecedented and obviously unaffordable for any student group.

Just as one example, last year, the co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Alicia Garza, gave multiple stand-alone lectures at our University at the invitation of Osamudia James, a professor at Miami Law. At the time, the BLM movement was developing into one of the most powerful and controversial interest groups our nation has seen in decades. Their activities received national attention on a daily basis by virtually every major news source. By that time, the group had been responsible for numerous high profile demonstrations that inflamed passions across the nation and on both sides of the political aisle.

This all goes to say that the co-founder of the BLM Movement was—at the time—a highly controversial figure in American politics. Her controversial nature is simply not debatable. Nonetheless, we are not aware of any security costs that were charged for her individual speaking events. That event was sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Division of Student Affairs, Student Life, Multicultural Student Affairs, and Housing and Residential Life. If security cost were in fact imposed, we would be very interested to find out the amount charged and who ultimately paid those fees.

This situation boils down to the following: The Miami Law Federalist Society is the only student organization on campus that has been required to furnish security fees prior to an event, and it is the most prominent libertarian/conservative organization on campus. The imposition of these security fees is sure to have a chilling effect on the Federalist Society’s operations at UM.

Dr. Murray is an Emeritus Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a renowned political scientist, author, and public speaker. His groundbreaking scholarship was the catalyst that led to the comprehensive (and bipartisan) Welfare Reform Act signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton. Dr. Murray was a Peace Corps Volunteer, worked with US-AID in Thailand. He received his B.A. from Harvard and his Ph.D. from MIT. He is a decorated scholar, having been awarded Honorary Doctorates from Rhodes College and Universidad Francisco Marroquín. He has also been a recipient of the Irving Kristol Award, the Kistler Prize, and the Edmund Burke Award. He has published over 18 books and hundreds of academic articles. He 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. The only risk he poses is upsetting the established norms of academic thought and behavior at the University of Miami. That alone does not justify levying these impossible costs on the Miami Law Federalist Society. 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.

This event is a debate on free speech and academic freedom. 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.

Rather than protecting your students, you are doing them a grave disservice by sheltering them from ideas that they have neither heard nor taken the time to fully understand. As future legal practitioners, students at Miami Law would behoove themselves to learn how to deal with unfamiliar and challenging ideas in a civil manner. We should not be encouraging our students to embrace emotional and intellectual frailty. Instead, we should be encouraging students to develop and exhibit mature adult traits, including the ability to listen and disagree courteously, or to simply exercise the choice not to attend events that may offend them.

If for any reason you cannot eliminate this fee, please let us know what the reason is for the fee and how this event differs from other events where no fee was charged.

Warm regards,

Stephen M. Smith
J.D. Candidate | 2018
Federalist Society | President
University of Miami School of Law

Alex Kiselev
J.D. Candidate | 2018
The Federalist Society | Vice President
University of Miami School of Law

Liberals don’t have to worry about paying for security for their events, because conservatives aren’t violent, and we respect others’ rights of free speech. Thus, the heckler’s veto is a one-way street–it operates only to prevent conservative voices from being heard on campuses.

Let’s hope that the University of Miami Law School reverses what so far is a disgraceful position.

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