The Jury Talks Back

3/15/2009

How to discourage speech disruptions

Filed under: Uncategorized — aunursa @ 7:39 pm

Last week protestors at the University of Massachusetts disrupted a speech by Don Feder.  Unruly students repeatedly interrupted the speaker with heckles, boos, catcalls, and other troublemaking, preventing Feder from completing his prepared remarks.  Ironically, the title of the program — sponsored by the UMass Republican Club — was, “Hate Crimes Laws and Other Forms of Censorship: the Left’s Assault on Free Speech.”

When asked to explain why they sought to prevent others from hearing what the speaker had to say, protestors inevitably displayed their ignorance of the First Amendment and their obliviousness to irony…

“There’s absolutely no room for hate speech on this campus,” said [2008 UMass] graduate Natalia Tylim.  Her friend, senior Katie Perry, concurred, adding “I think campuses are places for open-mindedness, and this is the opposite of that.”

I witnessed a similar attempt to stifle a lecturer’s speech firsthand when I attended a 2004 talk given by Daniel Pipes at UC Berkeley.  Since then this mob censorship has happened with increasing frequency on college campuses across the country.  University officials have failed to punish the hooligans and often erroneously defend their actions as free speech.

I don’t understand why targeted groups continue to put up ith this assault on their free speech rights.  There is such a simple solution that would cause the protestors to remain outside the auditorium voluntarily — and would allow the speaker to communicate with those who actually came to listen.

My solution: charge admission to the event.  Announce that the funds collected will go to pay the speaker.  Or announce that the funds will be donated to a specific cause that the speaker supports.  (If the speaker is conservative, the beneficiary could be the Young America’s Foundation or the Alliance Defense Fund; if the speaker is pro-Israel, it could be Honest Reporting or Magen David Adom.  The point is that people who are so outraged that they would attempt to stifle an opposing view would be loathe to pay money that would support the cause they hate.

Why isn’t this being done today for such events?

Do university policies prohibit events that charge an admission fee?  I coulnd’t find such a rule in the meeting room use policy for the UMass Campus Events Office.  In fact the policy suggests that such admission fees are perfectly acceptable.  Nor could I find such a rule in the room reservation policies at UC Berkeley.

Is it too difficult to sell tickets and keep track of the funds?  I cannot believe that ticket sales or money handling would pose much of an obstacle.  It’s certainly a small effort to ensure a successful event.

Would it not work — would protestors pay the fee anyway to gain admittance?  I doubt it.  These people would not want so much as a dime of their money to support a cause they so vehemently oppose.

Is the principle of the matter to provide a free event?  If that’s the case, I don’t see the point.  Make it a nominal fee, say, five dollars.  Surely audience members would gladly dig into their wallets to ensure that their time is well spent.

I really want to know why this option is not being used to ensure orderly events.  What am I missing?

H/T: Michelle Malkin

15 Comments

  1. The problem with an admission is that you will end up preaching to the choir on a campus. It is crying shame that the left is allowed to censor at will, and that the colleges allow this behavior.

    Comment by PCD — 3/16/2009 @ 7:46 am

  2. Aren’t there laws against disorderly conduct?

    Comment by verne — 3/16/2009 @ 7:58 am

  3. a $5 fee is actually a fairly large expense for many college students. when *I* was an undergraduate, it would have kept me from attending such an event.

    Comment by aphrael — 3/16/2009 @ 1:50 pm

  4. What amount would be affordable enough for the interested students and yet too much for the protestors? One dollar?

    Comment by aunursa — 3/16/2009 @ 3:37 pm

  5. How about photocopies of picture IDs at the door, volunteers with video cameras, a lawyer, and federal civil rights lawsuits againt the hecklers?

    Comment by nk — 3/16/2009 @ 4:46 pm

  6. Walter Williams has a different idea for dealing with these disruptions. Instead of focusing on the free speech aspect, the school should be forced to recognize that the speaker and the group sponsoring him and her have entered into a contractual arrangement where the speaker promises to give a lecture in return for the sponsor paying an honorarium (or, in other cases, paying fees for the venue and security, etc.). When unruly students disrupt the speech, they are interfering with the contractual arrangement and they ought to be held financially liable for it.

    Sorry I can’t find a link for this. I heard him talk about this on the radio when he was guest-hosting for Limbaugh a couple of years back. I think it was right about the time that the lefties were disrupting the Minutemen at Columbia.

    Comment by JVW — 3/16/2009 @ 7:22 pm

  7. JVW: hypotheticlaly speaking, how are the unruly students bound by the contract between the school and the speaker?

    Comment by aphrael — 3/16/2009 @ 8:36 pm

  8. Well, not being a lawyer myself, I would assume it would be akin to you hiring me to paint your house, but then our neighbor (let’s say aunursa in this case) somehow preventing me from fulfilling that contract (let’s say she erects barriers all around your house so that I can’t put up my ladders and start painting). She would be interfering with our contract, which I assume would make her liable for some sort of compensation to you or to me depending upon which one of us was the aggrieved party.

    Wouldn’t this be similar to a picket line that purposefully prevents people from entering a business in order to engage in commerce? In that instance too, the people picketing could be held liable for at least the lost revenue, could they not?

    Comment by JVW — 3/16/2009 @ 9:32 pm

  9. apharel: I would assume they would be liable under the tort of “intentional interference with contract”, which exists in some form in most states. One problem with this idea is that the plaintiff has to prove that the defendant knew of the existence of the contract. This could be addressed by speakers prominently placing information concerning the terms of the contract at the entrance of the assembly, although this could create its own set of problems.

    Comment by Sean P — 3/17/2009 @ 4:41 pm

  10. JVW: the school should be forced to recognize that the speaker and the group sponsoring him and her have entered into a contractual arrangement where the speaker promises to give a lecture in return for the sponsor paying an honorarium

    Hmmm … If security fail to remove the disruptors, could the sponsor sue the school for breach of contract?

    Comment by aunursa — 3/18/2009 @ 7:13 am

  11. aunursa: Probably not. The Courts would probably regard the speaker’s presentation as part of the speaker’s obligation, not the sponsors. The failure to remove disruptors on the part of the school gives the speaker the opportunity to claim he fully performed under the contract (he didn’t finish his speech but he was prevented from doing so by the sponsor and/or third parties) and so he is still entitled to his speaking fee, but he would not be entitled to give the speech, at least under contract law.

    Comment by Sean P — 3/18/2009 @ 8:28 am

  12. Sean P: Thanks, but I was referring to the group that sponsors the speaker. Would the sponsoring group (e.g. UMass Republican Club) be able to sue the university? They fulfilled the contract but the university failed to meet its obligation.

    Comment by aunursa — 3/18/2009 @ 9:03 am

  13. Sorry, my bad.

    I’m still skeptical though. Its important to keep in mind there would be two separate contracts at issue — that between the speaker and the sponsoring group, and that between the sponsoring group and the university. I haven’t been to college in awhile, but is there any kind of contract that occurs between the university and, say, the College Republicans prior to a speaking engagement by, say, Daniel Pipes? All contracts have to have consideration, I suppose the University would be providing a forum for an individual to speak, but what would the College Republicans be giving to the university in this circumstance? Under common law, if there is no consideration by both parties, there is no contract, or even a quasi-contract.

    I would also add that even a suit is successful, the damages will likely only be sufficient to cover the speaking fee, which would likely be much, much less than the cost of litigating the issue.

    Comment by Sean P — 3/18/2009 @ 10:55 am

  14. I see your point. UMass apparently does not charge a room fee for registered student groups, while fees for some rooms at UC Berkeley range from $75-$925 or more.

    From the Berkeley facility use permit…

    University shall not be deemed to be in default of this Permit or liable for damages if the performance of any or all of its obligations hereunder are delayed or become impossible because of any act of God, terrorism, war, riot or civil disobedience, epidemic, strike, lock-out or labor dispute, fire or any cause beyond University’s control.

    Comment by aunursa — 3/18/2009 @ 11:21 am

  15. […] The Jury Talks Back (Patterico’s Pontifications): I don’t understand why targeted groups continue to put up ith this assault on their free speech rights . . . My solution: charge admission to the event. Announce that the funds collected will go to pay the speaker. Or announce that the funds will be donated to a specific cause that the speaker supports. (If the speaker is conservative, the beneficiary could be the Young America’s Foundation or the Alliance Defense Fund; if the speaker is pro-Israel, it could be Honest Reporting or Magen David Adom) . . . […]

    Pingback by ADF Alliance Alert » How to discourage speech disruptions — 6/26/2009 @ 9:03 am

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