Apparently free speech isn’t exactly free for certain student organizations at the University of Buffalo.
Students for Life, a pro-life organization at the school, is suing the university after being forced to pay an unprecedented fee costing more than the organization’s annual allocated funding.
The group hosted an on-campus pro-life debate in April, which the university deemed “controversial,” and forced the students to hire university police to be on hand.
The university then charged the group $649.63 in fees, Fox News reported, $150 more than what Students for Life is given each year through Student Association funding.
“A public university is commonly known as the ‘marketplace of ideas,’” Students for Life’s complaint states. “The marketplace depends on free and vigorous debate between students—debate that is silenced when university policies regulate speech based on content and viewpoint, and vest administrators with unbridled discretion to impose fees for the exercise of free speech.”
The pro-life debate attracted more than 200 students with no major catastrophes, and one officer even sat outside the room reading the paper. Across campus, though, another debate was being held between a Christian student and an atheist student—sans the “required” campus law enforcement.
It’s clear the University of Buffalo — part of the state of New York’s university system — lacks any sort of guidelines in determining proper protocol for which events require law enforcement. By singling out certain groups at the discretion of university officials, the state school is stifling students’ First Amendment rights.
“On information and belief, [the University of Buffalo] does not possess any official policies that set forth narrow, objective and definite standards officials in Student Life or University Police must apply when deciding whether security is necessary at a student organization event,” the lawsuit says.
Alliance Defending Freedom, which calls itself a “legal ministry,” is representing the students. The group said that universities, especially public ones, should encourage debate.
“University officials cannot arbitrarily decide to deem an event ‘controversial’ and then weigh down students with burdensome fees to engage in constitutionally protected free speech,” David Hacker, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement.
This isn’t the first time the University of Buffalo has run into some trouble with the pro-life student group. At a pro-life rally the group sponsored in April, an adjunct professor was arrested for shouting and cursing at the students and their displays.