March 06, 2009

CU Boulder Proceeds With Event Featuring William Ayers And Ward Churchill Despite Non-Payment Of Security Fees

**Update--full video of Ayers' speech courtesy of People's Press Collective:

Drunkablog has a recap and pics, updates on Ward Churchill's lawsuit, and PirateBallerina has an excellent roundup of the "slew" of Churchill/Ayers-palooza last night in Boulder.

The William Ayers/Ward Churchill farce event at CU Boulder--"Forbidden Education and the Rise of Neo-McCarthyism" will proceed with the security required for the event.

The student groups hosting the Weather Undergrounder William Ayers and ex-professor Ward Churchill are griping about the security costs, and insist that the speakers are the reason for the "extra" charges:
Students for True Academic Freedom, which is sponsoring the event, said CU officials are unfairly imposing a $3,000 security fee to try to stop the event from happening.

The fee would cover the cost of having campus police at the engagement.

"The fees are exorbitant," said Aaron Smith, an organizer with the group. Smith said his group has already arranged for student security and neither Ayers nor Churchill has requested extra security.

"There's an effort to punish us financially, our student group specifically, because of the nature of who we're bringing out," said another organizer, Sean Daly.
This is patently absurd and incorrect.

I attended CU Boulder from 1997-2001 and for a few years after in graduate school, and the speakers we brought out through College Republicans often had security requirements. This was especially true when we hosted an event with NRA President Charlton Heston in March of 2000, less than a year after the Columbine High School shooting. There were anti-gun protesters in large numbers, as well as a small contingent of gun owners who thought the NRA was too moderate. There was a heightened sense of emotion surrounding the gun control issue in the late '90s, especially in Colorado following the Columbine shooting. We needed the security.

CU's response:
CU Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard said the decision to add the extra security fee was based on logistics, not content.

"It's got nothing to do with any difference of opinion we would have with Mr. Churchill or anyone else," Hilliard said. "It has to do with a baseline assessment of the security needs we have to make that a safe evening for everyone in the audience and for these speakers themselves."

Hilliard said the security fee is in line with what student groups typically pay for high-profile events featuring well-known speakers.

Last summer Hilliard said the campus College Republicans paid $4,800 in security fees related to an event featuring two men who claimed to be former members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

"We're treating them exactly the same as we've treated every other student organization. There's absolutely nothing here on our part that has anything to do with the content of the program that evening,” said Hilliard.
Fairness, however, is not in the student groups' vocabulary.

Whining about oppression, obviously, is:
But Daly and Smith said their group has invited the exact same speakers to CU in the past and did not have to pay for additional security.

"Bill Ayers and Derrick Jensen and Ward Churchill have never had to pay for that kind of security cost," Daly said.

University officials said things have changed since then.

Last year, during the presidential campaign, Ayers became a household name when he was labeled an "unrepentant terrorist" who sat on an education board with Barack Obama. Since then, he has received death threats.

Smith and Daly acknowledge said if university officials feel that extra security is needed, they should pay for it.

But Hilliard said waiving the fee or having the university pay it, would set a bad precedent.

"No student organization in the history of the university has ever refused to pay and bear their share of the burden for security costs," he said.
And they won't go down without a fight:
But that is exactly what Students for True Academic Freedom plan to do and they said they will not shy away from a legal battle if the university insists that they pay.

"We'll be seeing CU in court," said Daly.

The event is expected to go forward with full security on Thursday, March 5, at 7 p.m. in the UMC Glenn Miller Ballroom.

CU officials said the students will be permitted to pay the security fee after the event and if they do not, it may go to a collection agency.
Speaking of court, Ward's lawsuit jury selection began today.

Drunkablog and People's Press Collective will be there to cover the event and provide after action reports (photos, audio--courtesy of Drunkablog's fine efforts)--stay tuned for updates.

Bonus: Behold the "free speech cage" at CU Boulder in advance of this intellectual endeavor.

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