This past Tuesday, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Conservative Union hosted a speaker by the name of Walid Shoebat. Mr. Shoebat is a self-described former PLO terrorist and was speaking out against jihad. It goes without saying that this contentious topic was not well-received by many at UWM. On that same day, Boise State University College Republicans hosted "minuteman" Chris Simcox to talk about the threat of illegal aliens in the United States and the failures of the federal government to do anything about it. Naturally, his divisive commentary stirred quite a bit of debate at BSU. Six weeks ago, on Oct. 22, the UW-Madison College Republicans hosted speaker David Horowitz, and nearly everyone on campus knows the controversy that arose from that event.
So, other than well-recognized, well-respected, conservative speakers, what do the events featuring Walid Shoebat, Chris Simcox and David Horowitz all have in common? All of these events had unreasonable security fees assessed by the local police.
Over Thanksgiving break, more than a month after the Horowitz event, I received a bill from the University of Wisconsin Police Department for their "services" during the event — and I use the term "services" loosely. When the event was interrupted and it actually came down to the UWPD doing something, they sat on their hands to let students handle it themselves. I was told unless anyone was physically violated, they could not do anything. The assumption that they were there to protect the First Amendment rights of our speaker was apparently wrong.
What's more is that the UWPD has been altogether unable to identify any other speakers or events to which they have assessed security fees back to a student organization. That means that when Michael Moore, George Galloway and Howard Zinn came to our campus, no fees were charged to anyone who sponsored those events. Isn't it ironic that the only student organization to be assessed these exorbitant fees is the College Republicans? I really don't think so.
According to Sen. Glen Grothman, R-West Bend, "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. The UW has been unable to name any similar fees charged for left-of-center speakers."
In light of the recent "security fee" atrocities around the state, Mr. Grothman put out a press release calling on the UW Board of Regents to "take immediate action forbidding its campuses from charging security fees for on-campus speakers." He says if the Board of Regents does nothing, he is ready and willing to introduce legislation for this cause.
Such a decision by the Board of Regents would be well-advised if the mission of the UW System really is the "sifting and winnowing of ideas." If student groups are not allowed to host controversial events on campus without shelling out $1,300 to the local police department, how in the world would these necessary conversations get started? With everything we have going on, students often need more than just an op-ed to spark their interest. Regardless of whether or not they agreed with his message, students took notice of Mr. Horowitz's presence on campus, and it got people talking.
Mr. Grothman goes on to say, "[j]ust last month, the UW was bragging how well they did in the budget. Now they can't afford a little bit of police protection to protect freedom of speech against their left-wing campus thugs?"
It has been suggested the College Republicans' bill should be paid by those who afforded us the necessary security — Kevin Barrett, perhaps? I personally think the UW should just own up to its mission statement. It would not only provide a better equal treatment for the conservative students on campus, but also it would force a more intellectual campus environment for everyone.
Sara Mikolajczak ([email protected]) is the chair of the University of Wisconsin College Republicans.