The University of Pittsburgh(UPitt) is demanding that conservative students pay over $18,000 in security and damage fees caused by riots surrounding an event featuring Daily Wire host Michael Knowles, despite school officials allegedly encouraging the protests.
On April 18, the College Republican chapter and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) hosted conservative commentator Michael Knowles for a debate with BASED Politics co-founder Brad Polumbo on the issue of transgenderism, while over 250 protesters set off smoke bombs, fireworks and burned an effigy of Knowles. Several university officials expressed displeasure that the event was taking place and encouraged the protesters resulting in the university demanding thousands in damages and security costs from the chapter, according to a demand letter from Alliance Defending Freedom. (RELATED: Student Explains Meltdown Over Michael Knowles On College Campus)
“On March 10, the University issued a Press Release calling the April 18 Event ‘toxic and hurtful for many people in our University community,'” the letter reads. “On March 16, Provost [Ann] Cudd referred to a recent speech by Michael Knowles as ‘repugnant’ and ‘hate-filled rhetoric’ in a message she sent the Pitt Community. And on April 14, Professor Mahoney advised her students that ‘[t]he Theatre Arts department, along with many other departments, students, faculty, and staff at Pitt, strongly condemns this event and has called on the University to cancel Knowles’ appearance due to his history of spreading hate speech and inciting violence against trans people’ … and invited students to participate in ‘several events planned for Tuesday, April 18.'”
They set off explosives, blocked the entrance, and burned me in effigy.
— Michael Knowles (@michaeljknowles) April 19, 2023
The letter noted that despite university officials allegedly “inciting” students to riot, UPitt informed ISI on May 19 that it would be responsible for the $18,734 in security and damage fees and demanded a few weeks later that the transfer of the funds be made “very soon.” ADF argued that the university’s “wide and boundless discretion” to decide what is considered a security fee is “fraught with problems” and pointed to a contract signed by UPitt that states the school would be responsible for “all… security personnel deemed necessary by the university.”
ADF Senior Counsel Philip A. Sechler said in a press release that the university was violating the First Amendment by trying to discourage conservative events through “outrageous” fees.
“Free speech should be just that – free, ” Sechler told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “It should not cost students tens of thousands of dollars to speak on campus, but that’s exactly what the University of Pittsburgh is doing by charging over $18,000 in security fees to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and College Republicans after the groups hosted an event on campus that spurred protests. The university knew this disruption was a possibility ahead of time, but their efforts proved inadequate to manage the disruption.”
UPitt did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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