DePaul University in Chicago may be the “worst school for free speech in the country,” according to an aggressive attack levied against it Monday by a campus civil liberties group.
The accusations against DePaul come from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a leading advocate for free speech on campus. FIRE is singling the school out for criticism due to an assortment of actions over the last four months the group claims are deeply antithetical to free speech principles.
The problems for DePaul began last May with a visit by Breitbart journalist and conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos. Prior to the event, DePaul required the College Republicans, who were hosting it, to pay a last-minute $1,000 security fee. Despite the fee, the event was easily taken over by progressive student activists, who derailed the event and forced its cancellation while security did nothing to stop them.
In the wake of that incident, DePaul has responded by cracking down on speech even more. Over the summer, the school announced that Yiannopoulos will not be allowed back on campus, and they also preemptively banned Ben Shapiro from visiting. And, to FIRE’s ire, they’ve continued to impose hefty security fees on groups they think may be controversial.
On Friday, FIRE sent a letter to DePaul complaining that three groups — the College Republicans, Young Americans for Freedom, and DePaul Socialists — have been ordered to pay hundreds of dollars for security before they are allowed to host events. Young Americans attempted to bring Pat Buchanan to campus, but was told it had to pay $960 for security before doing so. Similarly, the DePaul Socialists were ordered to pay hundreds of dollars to have security officers at their fall lunch meeting, with administrators citing the “controversial nature” of their ideas.
FIRE is calling on DePaul to refund all of its security fees.
“How DePaul determines which events require costly security fees remains a mystery,” FIRE senior program officer Ari Cohn said in a statement. “What isn’t a mystery is that these fees are just one of many tools DePaul has in its toolbox for censoring speech with which it disagrees. Just in the past six months, DePaul has also outright banned multiple speakers from campus and used bogus IRS justifications for censoring political speech during an election season. Is DePaul the worst school for free speech in the country? It just might be.”
DePaul did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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