The University of Wisconsin charged College Republicans nearly $1,300 in security fees for an event held earlier this semester. But chair Sara Mikolajczak said Monday the group will not pay the debt.
College Republicans is being charged for security services provided by UW police during an Oct. 22 event featuring conservative speaker David Horowitz. The event turned out to be peaceful and no major incidents were reported.
In a meeting previous to the Horowitz visit, police told College Republicans there would be a charge for security services provided, but Mikolajczak said a Union representative present said the fee would "probably be no more than a couple hundred dollars."
Mikolajczak said she has been contacted by a representative from the chancellor's office to discuss the matter, but has not been able to schedule a meeting.
"They haven't called me back yet, but we think that $1,300 is absolutely ridiculous to expect a student organization to pay for a service we didn't ask for," Mikolajczak said. "We're just not going to do it. We can't afford to pay them $1,300."
State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, criticized UW's security fees policy and asked the Board of Regents to "take immediate action forbidding its campuses from charging security fees for on-campus speakers."
Grothman said he intends to introduce legislation preventing the university from charging these fees, if UW does not act on the matter.
"It is clear the UW is using 'security fees' to try to silence any voices which may be out of step with the hardcore left-wing orthodoxy found in so many liberal arts classrooms," Grothman wrote in a statement. "The UW has been unable to name any similar fees charged for left-of-center speakers."
The highest fees included $4,976.42 for a Primate Research Center conference and $2,407.15 for guest speaker Ward Connerly, a Republican political activist like Horowitz.
College Republicans had been previously charged $891.68 for a 2002 Horowitz lecture.
Don Nelson, UW assistant director of state relations, said it is not the university's interest to "squelch up opportunities of free speech."
"We want to facilitate the exercise of those events, and we want to meet with those groups to make sure these groups have the ability to carry these events forward," Nelson said.
Nelson said UWPD makes assessment of the security need surrounding student-organized events, and follows specific guidelines to determine if additional security is needed.
"Those guidelines do not include the political nature of the event," he said. "[The issue] could be location, time of day — could be anything. They do not take into consideration 'this is a conservative event, they automatically need security.'"
He said security surrounding the event is what UW police are responsible for, adding, "security is not an option on this campus."
Nelson said UW administrators are willing to meet with College Republicans to discuss the matter, and should schedule a meeting within the near future.