Must Universities 'Subsidize' Controversial Ideas? Allocating Security Fees When Student Groups Host Divisive Speakers
Erica Rachel Goldberg
Penn State Law
August 15, 2011
George Mason University of Civil Rights Law Journal, Vol. 21, p. 349, 2011
Across the political spectrum, student groups wishing to host controversial speakers face potentially prohibitive security fees when universities anticipate that audience members will create security concerns. Although Forsyth County v. The Nationalist Movement barred the government from imposing higher security fees on controversial speakers in a traditional public forum, courts and scholars have not yet addressed whether Forsyth applies to the student organizational context. In this article, I devise constitutional standards to govern the assessment of security fees imposed upon student groups by public universities. I begin the article by charting the animating principles behind Forsyth. I then outline the current doctrinal ambiguity surrounding First Amendment standards applicable to student organizations, from Healy v. James to the Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. Next, I examine specifically the issue of student organizations sponsoring outside speakers and explore the students’ right to receive information and the outside speaker’s right of access to the university forum. I argue that Forsyth’s rule against administrators possessing “unbridled discretion” and its rule of content neutrality should be applied to the student organizational context. Finally, I analyze several schools’ security fee policies and devise a way for schools to allocate security fees between the student organization and the university’s own funds in a constitutionally permissible manner.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 58
Keywords: university, security, First AmendmentAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 22, 2010 ; Last revised: August 15, 2011
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