Campus group calls surprise $1,800 security fee 'unfair and irresponsible'
Pennsylvania State University is billing Uncensored America $1,808.52 in security fees for an April 2022 event.
Sean Semanko, founder of Uncensored America, told Campus Reform that Penn State 'never told us that we needed security at the event.'
After an April 27 event held by the pro-free speech group Uncensored America at Pennsylvania State University, the campus group was hit with more than $1,800 in security fees from the school.
Despite the absence of any reported backlash or security threats resulting from the debate, Uncensored America received a May 19 invoice for a total of $1,808.52 in fees to cover the costs of campus police officers assigned to the event, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.
“If we don’t pay the almost $2,000 in security fees, our student bank account will be frozen. Without a bank account, we can’t host speaking events,” Uncensored America tweeted regarding the controversy.
— Uncensored America (@UncensoredAm) July 6, 2022
When asked for comment, Sean Semanko, founder of Uncensored America, told Campus Reform that Penn State “never told us that we needed security at the event. Even after we asked if security would be at the event, they said that there wasn’t a need for it.”
“Forcing us to pay a non-contractual four-figure security fee months after our debate is simply unfair and irresponsible”, he continued.
Steven Bonnell, one of the debaters, explained to Campus Reform that imposing security fees “incentivizes protests” and “makes these events prohibitively expensive.”
“[T]he university should either figure out how to cover costs, or create some fee that’s shared across all of the organizations on campus for security so as to not single out one group,” Bonnell concluded.
Campus Reform also reached out to Penn State students to get their perspectives on the incident.
Calvin Murphy, a student at Penn State, said that because Uncensored America might be perceived as conservative, it puts them at a “disadvantage” relative to their liberal peers.
“[N]ot only because Penn State is a majorly liberal school but because the right doesn’t take to the streets and force people to give them their way,” Murphy elaborated.
When asked if a liberal event on campus would require extra security, he responded “no.”
Murphy went on to tell Campus Reform that he’s “noticed a trend in the left getting very mad when they don’t get their way, meanwhile the right is mostly silent.”
Bailey Bauer, another Penn State student, disagreed with the way the incident was handled.
“I think that they need to give a flat security rate beforehand,” Bauer said. “[Because] if they don’t it sort of gives the message to students to go ahead and have these debates but don’t talk about the hard, controversial topics which are the ones that are most important.”
“Especially in an educational environment, controversial topics should be encouraged to be talked [about],” Bauer added.
Graham Piro, Program Officer at FIRE, an organization that advocates for free speech on college campuses, also spoke with Campus Reform about the controversy.
“Public colleges and universities, as well as private universities that make promises of free expression, must not affix a price tag to student speech on the basis of a speaker’s viewpoint,” Piro said.
Campus Reform reached out to Penn State University and Elijah Schaffer for comment, but did not receive a response.
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