A Boise State student group is crying foul after its school charged an extra security fee at a recent speaking event the organization sponsored on campus.
Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a freedom-oriented student group at BSU, says the school treated it unfairly by charging a $465 fee to bring three extra security guards and two Boise city police officers to a May 16 speech by gun-rights hero Dick Heller.
Heller is the former federal police officer who won a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case that allowed residents of the District of Columbia to buy and own handguns. As part of a nationwide speaking tour, Heller addressed a crowd at BSU’s Student Union Building.
YAL leaders told IdahoReporter.com that Boise State informed the group of the $465 fee the day before the event and gave little explanation as to why the charge showed up on the official invoice that also included room rental and equipment fees.
The school defended the charges, telling IdahoReporter.com that officials were only seeking to ensure a safe environment during the speech.
“We do charge campus groups for security when it is deemed a necessary component of an event, based on threat assessments,” said BSU communications staffer Kathleen Tuck. “In this case, there was concern that a community member had been encouraging folks to open carry.”
YAL leaders say that one community member may have hinted that he might open carry at the event, but they say they warned against it in the official announcement to adhere to BSU’s campus safety policies.
Sherlyn Rose, a YAL leader, told IdahoReporter.com that her school went too far.
“Boise State overstepped its bounds by charging extra security fees last minute for an event where the goal wasn’t to have an open-carry gun rally, but rather provide an educational forum for our students and community regarding a very important, historical Second Amendment Supreme Court ruling,” Rose wrote in an email.
Additionally, Rose said BSU mischaracterized pro-gun activists as threatening to public safety.
“I find it incredibly ironic how those who are most interested in and educated about our Second Amendment and gun safety would need protection!” she wrote. “The pro-gun communities I know are responsible gun owners who understand gun history, practice good etiquette and understand our gun laws better than the average citizen or armed thug.”
Rose said she and YAL may soon ask BSU for a full refund and may pursue other action if the school does not comply.
Still, the school is staying the course.
“The safety of the campus community and visitors is a high priority for all of us,” Tuck told IdahoReporter.com. “This is not an uncommon practice on university campuses.”
Geoff Talmon, an attorney and director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s Center for Defense of Liberty, criticized the school in a recent post, saying that BSU just put a price tag on speech the institution sees as contentious.
“By mandating that the Young Americans for Liberty pay for the extra security presence, the university is essentially charging the group a premium for engaging in speech that the university deems controversial and that might engender in the attendees a reaction with which the university disagrees,” he wrote.
He added that the school, by charging extra for the speech, is damaging open and civil discourse. “Particularly on a college campus, where the free exchange of ideas is absolutely essential to the intellectual growth of the students and the development of critical thinking skills, it is highly disappointing to see the First Amendment given so little respect,” he concluded.
BSU has yet to tell IdahoReporter.com if the school has ever charged extra security fees for other groups or events.
Update 6/20/14: Boise State emailed IdahoReporter.com to note that several other groups have been assessed an extra security charge. The school pointed to a U.S. Bank stockholders meeting, Federal Reserve regional meeting and a Sandra Day O'connor address as events that required extra security charges for sponsors.
Note: The Idaho Freedom Foundation publishes IdahoReporter.com.