Victory! Brooklyn College Suspends Unconstitutional Security Fee Requirement
The City University of New York, Brooklyn College announced that it was suspending its unconstitutional security fee policy in an email to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) last week. In February 2014, Brooklyn College implemented a new security fee policy that allowed the college to assess security costs for after-hours student club events. The new policy provided no standards as to how administrators were to assess fees. In March 2014, SJP at Brooklyn College sponsored an event at which Palestinian writer Ali Abunimah spoke about his new book “The Battle for Justice in Palestine.” The day SJP submitted their event request, Brooklyn College demanded that SJP pay a $400 security fee. To date, it appears that SJP is the only student group at Brooklyn College that has been required to pay a security fee. PSLS and its partner, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), wrote Brooklyn College in March and August 2014, explaining that Brooklyn College’s discretionary assessment of security costs raised constitutional concerns.
“Forcing SJP to pay for security it doesn't want based on Brooklyn College’s subjective perception of the audience’s reaction violates SJP’s First Amendment rights,” said Radhika Sainath. “The Supreme Court has made it clear that public universities may not burden speech deemed ‘controversial’ – to do so amounts to an unconstitutional ‘heckler’s veto.’”
Brooklyn College has stated that it “may alter this policy in the future due to budgetary considerations.” PSLS will continue to monitor Brooklyn College’s policies and defend the right of SJP students to express their views supporting Palestinian freedom.
PSLS is working with other CUNY SJP chapters that have reported discriminatory treatment, and with CCR, has appealed to CUNY’s counsel to address the students’ concerns. In an open letter, CUNY faculty recently called on their administration to respect SJP’s freedom to organize.