Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I am not Panther proud tonight

I am not so happy with my alma mater just now. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee proposes to charge the Conservative Union, a student organization, $ 2500.00 for security costs in connection with an appearance of Walid Shoebat, a reformed PLO terrorist who speaks against jihad.

I know little about Shoebat. I understand that certain groups accuse him of being an "Islamophobe" and an evangelical Christian "extremist." For all I know, he may be both. It is clear that he thinks that virulent forms of Islam are dangerous and widespread. But that's not the point.

You never know how accurate a news report is, but it seems that the amount of the fee may have been set based upon the anticipated reaction to Shoebat's views. As a general matter, this is unconstitutional. The government has the right to charge for the cost of policing an event, but, in general, it can't set that fee based upon an assessment of the speaker's views and the likely reaction to it.

The paper notes that other universities have banned or restricted Shoebat speeches, but they are private institutions. UWM is a public university and, while it may impose reasonable time, place and manner regulation, it does not get to engage in viewpoint discrimination. Basing the amount of a fee upon what a speaker will say and how others may react to it does that.

Apart from its constitutional obligations, there may be an educational opportunity here. Mohamed Elsayed, President of the Muslim Student Organization, wants to know "[w]here is the boundary between freedom of speech and hate speech?" I can tell him. With the exception of a few very narrow categories (e.g., speech that will incite imminent violence)that aren't remotely implicated here, there isn't one. I wish that my school would have stood up for that. Bad timing for end of the year fundraising.


Anonymous said...

I just failed to fine where he claims to be a Christian...he claims that he read the Jewish Bible and found that what he was taught about Jews growing up as a Muslim was wrong and that is what inspired him to speak against the Islamic attacks on Jews...doesn't sound like an evil agenda to me.

What am I missing here?

Seth Zlotocha said...

The Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement case you cite notes that the amount of the fee assessed is immaterial. According to the JS, the typical fee charged for security runs between $300-$500; wouldn't applying the Forsyth decision to that policy make even that small price variance unconstitutional?

Anonymous said...

And who ought to pay the extra costs of security in such cases? The students, with a higher tuition increase? The faculty? (Wait, maybe they just did pay for it, with their whopping 2 percent raise this year -- or at least for the last half of the year, by the time it gets there).

Maybe the staff ought to pay for it -- or just one of them, the one who also blogs that she is outraged by this. Those who don't want the sponsor renting the facility to pay the actual costs ought to say who ought to pay them, then.

Of course, there is precedent for the students, faculty, and staff paying for extra security -- and probably a lot more, but we didn't have a Journal Sentinel story on the costs for Bush's speech at UWM.

Rick Esenberg said...


Forsyth is kind of a weird case because they basically upheld a facial change based upon how the county said they would interpret the policy in question but had apparently not done in the case before the court. I think you can charge a fee. The problem here would be that the U. seems to have based its charge on the content of the speakers views and the reaction that they may provoke. But if that is done, you are correct. The amount doesn't seem to matter. It was only $100 in Forsyth.

Maybe the U. could argue that this is a limited rather than a traditional public forum and that makes a difference although its unclear to me how that difference would help here. We still have viewpoint discrimination.

As for Anon, I understand that it may be a financial burden to allow controversial speakers to be heard but, once the university decides to open a forum, the constitution does not permit it to pick and choose among varying points of view. To allow hecklers to veto unpopular speech is to do that. You may not like the law but that seems to be what it is.

Seth Zlotocha said...

I think you can charge a fee. The problem here would be that the U. seems to have based its charge on the content of the speakers views and the reaction that they may provoke.

Seems to me, if you apply Forsyth to UWM's policy, the policy would need to be unconstitutional. After all, what other grounds -- aside from those that relate to the content of the forum -- could the university have for charging different amounts?

Anonymous said...

UWM is not picking and choosing among points of view, not stopping the guy from speaking. It is setting a rate of costs to be charged to the group for security -- not for speech.

You would lose this one in court so fast with your argument, it could be fun to watch. Freedom of speech has its costs -- and so does security, especially on campuses these days, where such costs are soaring, understandably.

The Union is a separate business from UWM, anyway. Are you actually arguing that a business does not get to charge what it costs for its own security?

James Rowen said...

Universities, especially public universities, but all universities in my opinion have to provide open forums without impediments

Rick Esenberg said...

Anon 12:53

If I had the case, I'd be spending the money.

Anonymous said...

You're not getting that is not a university-sponsored event.

If he was speaking at a university-sponsored event, for a class in a classroom, there would be no charge. (There might be security concerns, and a wise teacher would arrange for those -- but there would not be a charge.) But even the academic departments and programs have to pay for use of Union facilities, because it is separate. It is supposed to break even, not be a tax burden.

This is a rental, and of a non-academic facility. Same as if he was speaking at, say, City Hall; the city would ask for coverage of costs.

There have been many events at the UWM Union when rental groups paid more than other rental groups, for many reasons -- all coming down to actual costs.

Clear now?

Rick Esenberg said...


I assume that you are not a lawyer. UWM can't shed it's status as a state actor by not "sponsoring" the event. It can charge a fee. It can't engage in viewpoint dicrimination. The case law seems to indicate that varying the fee based on the content of the speaker's message and the expected reaction is not permitted. Period. Unless there are facts that I am not aware of or a better argument than I have been able to dream up, if it gets sued over this, it will lose.

Seth Zlotocha said...

Beyond just the application of the policy in this case, isn't your argument really that the policy in any case is unconstitutional if it's charging different amounts to different groups?

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Anonymous said...

Rick, Anon is telling you that the Liberal establishment at Universities may invite liberal activists, terrorists, abortionists, anti-Semites or even termites, and not be required to pay the fee's and costs that UWM asked in this case. The reason is that, UWM LIBERAL, IVORY TOWER, TENURED, GOVT PENSIONED, BIRKENSTOCK WEARING, TOFU EATING, PRIUS DRIVING, liberal, GOVERNMENT PAID adminstrators, not only have better judgement than those with DIVERSE THOUGHTS, but when LIBERALS PAY OTHER LIBERALS to speak, NO SECURITY or POLL TAX is necessary. It's about FREE SPEECH and the FREE EXCHANGE of idea's in an open non-threatening University atmosphere.
Unless they disagree with the SPEAKERS free exchange of idea's.

Did I mention that most of UWM's admin, males have really really nice beards??

Unknown said...

"UWM is not picking and choosing among points of view, not stopping the guy from speaking. It is setting a rate of costs to be charged to the group for security -- not for speech."

What a steaming pant load of liberal tripe.
It's called a poll tax libtard.
Seriously ladies and gentlemen, libtards believe this shit. If it benefits them.

Since when did FREE SPEECH, have a $2,500.00 price tag?
Imagine a Black Panther being invited to UWM, getting this treatment! Imagine the libs pissing their pants in outrage.

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