Alliance Defending Freedom demands Pitt rescind security fee for Shapiro event

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Alliance Defending Freedom demands Pitt rescind security fee for Shapiro event

yaf.org/Wikimedia Commons

yaf.org/Wikimedia Commons

yaf.org/Wikimedia Commons

By Brian Gentry and Emily Wolfe

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Young America’s Foundation is moving forward with its complaint against the University of Pittsburgh for an allegedly unlawful security fee imposed ahead of the campus visit of conservative commentator Ben Shapiro in November.

According to a letter to the University from YAF’s legal counsel dated Dec. 3, YAF’s original contract stated that Pitt would provide security for the event. Two days before Shapiro’s visit, the University informed the College Republicans they would be required to pay a $5,546.52 security fee or Pitt would cancel Shapiro’s lecture.

[Read about the initial complaint here: https://pittnews.com/article/137912/featured/young-americas-foundation-threatens-lawsuit-against-pitt-over-ben-shapiro-security-fee/]

Shapiro was hosted by the Pitt College Republicans as part of a YAF-sponsored tour of college campuses. Shapiro’s talks at other universities have frequently attracted protests, and his visit to the University of California, Berkeley, in September 2017 ended in the arrest of nine protesters.

Though a peaceful protest was staged outside Alumni Hall on the night of Shapiro’s visit to Pitt, there were no reports of violence and no arrests were made.

[Read more about the event here: https://pittnews.com/article/137970/featured/ben-shapiro-appearance-sparks-controversy/]

YAF demanded that the University rescind the additional security fee for the Shapiro event, claiming that the organization had no legal obligation to pay the fee.

YAF-Pitt-CollegeRepublicans-Letter

The letter also demanded that the University modify its event guidelines so only “specified objective criteria” are used when assessing security fees, claiming that the fee imposed on Shapiro’s visit reflected “viewpoint discrimination” against the speaker’s conservative views.

YAF is represented by the Center for Academic Freedom, a branch of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative organization that is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Joe Miksch, Pitt’s Director of Media Relations, said in an email statement the University did not consider Shapiro’s viewpoint when assessing the additional security fee.

“Pitt Student Affairs guidelines generally require the hosting student organization to cover security costs,” Miksch said. “Consistent with the First Amendment, the content and viewpoint of the speaker’s or performer’s message and the community’s reaction or expected reaction to the event will not be considered when determining the security fee to be paid by the hosting organization.”

The University of California, Berkeley, recently settled a case with YAF claiming discrimination against conservative speakers. YAF sued the university in April 2017, alleging that UC Berkeley moved events featuring conservative speakers to unpopular dates and times. As part of the settlement, UC Berkeley modified its campus events policy and paid YAF’s legal expenses of $70,000.

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