Zach Greenberg, a First Amendment attorney for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) says Penn State assessed the Uncensored America student group with excessive security fees and invoiced the group after its on-campus event.
"It was an invoice for almost $2,000 and security fees for five campus police officers," the attorney details. "The issue is that the administration never communicated this to the student group ahead of time. It would have been a clear violation of the students' First Amendment rights."
According to Greenberg, this is a classic case of the heckler's veto, "where a university tries to burden a student group, punish a student group because of the potential offensiveness of speakers."
That, he says, is problematic because student groups have the right to host controversial and offensive speakers.
Even so, Greenburg says conservative organizations on campuses across the nation face similar fines for the same reason.
In this case, Penn State responded to FIRE's letter that objected to the post hoc imposition of the excessive security fees by confirming the levy imposed on the student group for its on-campus event in late April will be discharged.
According to FIRE, this solution will allow Uncensored America to escape the hold on its account with the university and thereby enable it to schedule and fund events on campus next semester.