PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The University of Pittsburgh waived the security fee it charged to Pitt College Republicans after bestselling author and conservative commentator Ben Shapiro's appearance on campus Nov. 14.
The University had charged the organization $5,546 over security concerns for the conservative speaker.
The Young America's Foundation, Shapiro's sponsoring organization, signed a promise to pay the fee "in protest," and hired a law firm to challenge the fee.
"Consistent with University guidelines, the College Republicans were responsible for the security fee as the student organization hosting the event," Joe Miksch, a spokesman from Pitt told KDKA in an email on Monday. "The College Republicans, however, were apparently expecting Young America's Foundation to address the fee.
"To our knowledge, YAF never provided the College Republicans with the funds to pay the fee. In light of the confusion over this issue and the difficult position the College Republicans would be in without additional funds, the University has waived the fee for this event."
The firm representing YAF, Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a letter from senior counsel Jonathan Larcomb to the university on Dec. 5, that, "Speech isn't free if the speaker can be forced to pay money simply because somebody may object. The Supreme Court has specifically stated that security fees, such as the ones Pitt has assessed, aren't constitutionally permissible."
Hundreds of students lined up outside Alumni Hall in Oakland to hear Shapiro in November.
"Thousands of schools apply to get Ben Shapiro," Lorenzo Riboni, a senior with the Pitt College Republicans, said in December. "He's the number one requested conservative speaker on college campuses.
"We were lucky to be the one out of six that got chosen this semester."
Only a few protesters showed up for the event.
"This sort of tactic on the part of a school is very dangerous because it takes the power away from students to determine whose speech they want to bring in and turns the power over to the leftist protesters and allows them to shut down anyone's speech they find disfavored," Spencer Brown, a spokesperson for the Young America's Foundation, told KDKA in December.
YAF and the University of California, Berkeley, recently reached a settlement in a similar case in which the university agreed to pay YAF $70,000 and to rescind its "high-profile speaker" policy. The Berkeley College Republicans were charged more than $15,000 in security fees for Shapiro's September 2017 appearance there.
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