KSU is earning a name for itself. Unfortunately, that’s not
because of its Division I NCAA basketball team.
The Atlanta-area university is making its mark for
repressive speech policies. While free speech is threatened on many campuses,
KSU is aggressively working to shutdown views that could challenge its home
court advantage over ideas.
Recently, we profiled how officials quarantined a pro-life
display to a “speech
zone” that makes up less than 0.08 percent of its 405-acre campus.
On March 5, ADF attorneys filed a second lawsuit against the university after it imposed unconstitutional “security fees” on Young Americans for Freedom for an event featuring conservative
Katie Pavlich, scheduled for March 7. The lawsuit also challenges the caste
system that KSU uses to sort student groups into separate but unequal tiers.
Last fall, Young Americans for Freedom became a “registered
student organization” (RSO). It is part of a network of chapters committed to
ensuring that increasing numbers of young Americans are “inspired by the ideas
of individual freedom….”
Under KSU’s policies, officials have unlimited power to rank
groups into one of four classifications. Those at the top of the pyramid (i.e., chartered or affiliated groups) get
preferential treatment and funding from student fees. Those at lower levels get
less. Those in the bottom “recognized” category, like Young Americans for
Freedom, cannot receive any student activity fee funding at all. When Young
Americans for Freedom tried to obtain a higher status, KSU officials denied the
In December 2017, Young Americans for Freedom began planning
the Pavlich event. In early January, the club e-mailed KSU about its plans.
Initially, its request was approved. Then the university informed club leaders
that its request was “pending security review.”
On Feb. 1, an official e-mailed Jamie Hahn, one of the club’s
officers, a bill for $320 to cover police security for Pavlich’s lecture. Hahn
replied by asking why an added officer was required. The official explained
that the KSU Police Department “determine[s] what constitutes the best safety
measure based upon the type of event and who the particular speaker . . . will
be.” The official continued: “Based on the speaker you plan on hosting for your
event . . ., there is a little more controversy surrounding this person [emphasis
added] than that of other lesser know [sic] individuals.” Thus, “Public Safety
has deemed it necessary . . . to have both officers there.”
Pavlich is the news editor at Townhall.com and a Fox News
contributor. Hardly a security threat. Indeed, KSU officials treat real
security threats much differently.
On Oct. 16, 2017, students held a Black Lives Matter protest
on the Campus Green. The event’s organizers were not a recognized student
organization. During the protest, Zach Bohannon, an officer with Young
Americans for Freedom, asked the BLM leader what the group did to reserve the
prime spot. The leader said they just had to show up because KSU officials had
handled every space and security detail. They even trotted out KSU’s mascot
“Scrappy the Owl” to support the protest. Apparently, there was no
controversial objection; no security fees. Just concierge service.
So due to KSU’s caste system, Young Americans for Freedom is
denied any access to student activity fee funding, and it has less access to
other resources on campus. Then due to the security fee policy, it is saddled with
a $320 security fee. Due to both policies, YAF is unable to speak freely.
All our clients ask is for equal access.
“A public university is supposed to be a marketplace of
ideas, but that marketplace can’t function properly if officials can charge a
group ‘security fees’ just because they don’t like what the group is saying, or
if officials can provide funding and the best locations only to those sharing
ideas that they prefer,” said ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham.
Conservative groups should have a chance at event space,
funding, and other benefits that they and the public pay for. With the help of
ADF, YAF hopes to win freedom for all students so that everyone can speak truth
Stay up to date on the latest cases and issues that ADF is
working on to ensure college and university officials respect the
constitutional rights of their students.