Free Speech Gets Expensive

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from The Wall Street Journal,

A university sent the College Republicans a $17,000 security bill.

When University of Washington’s College Republicans invited controversial activist Joey Gibson to speak, administrators gave them the OK—and sent them a $17,000 security bill. The student group sued Tuesday, and in an 11th-hour ruling Friday a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against the college, saying the bill “runs afoul [by] chilling speech.”

The free-speech rally will proceed Saturday on the university’s main plaza, the Red Square. Administrators are urging students to stay away for their own safety. University President Ana Mari Cauce said Friday that campus police have “credible information that groups from outside the UW community are planning to join the event with the intent to instigate violence.”

The threat is real. In 2017, when the College Republicans hosted alt-right parvenu Milo Yiannopolous, masked activists showed up to protest, while other nonstudents showed up to counter-protest.

That harrowing experience illustrates how essential it is that the University of Washington protects free speech. The open exchange of ideas is a core university mission. By sticking the hosts of a controversial speaker with the security bill, administrators are “rewarding members of society so intolerant of and hostile to hearing views they find objectionable that they must threaten and/or commit violence to protect themselves from such views,” the College Republicans argued in their complaint.

They know whereof they speak. After the Milo event, the university stuck College Republicans with a $9,121 bill.

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