Conservative writer Ben Shapiro is set to speak at UCLA on Monday after a spat between the university and the campus Republican club over security fees for the event.
The UCLA student group Bruin Republicans balked last month at the prospect of paying security fees for Shapiro’s visit and the university ultimately relented, saying they would cover the cost for basic security at the event.
Under a 2009 policy that the university is now reviewing, the school foots the entire security bill for events in which students, faculty and staff make up at least 70% of the audience.
Administrators asked the Republican club representatives to sign an agreement that would hold them personally liable for security costs if the audience for the Shapiro event does not reach that threshold.
The students protested and an attorney for the group wrote a letter saying making the conservative political club pay security fees would be an unconstitutional violation of 1st Amendment free speech rights because most of the other 1,200 student organizations haven’t had to do so when they’ve sponsored events.
“Given UCLA’s commitment to free speech, and to avoid any appearance to the contrary, UCLA has decided to also pay the basic security costs for this event,” UCLA spokesman Tod Tamberg said in a statement. “UCLA will be adopting this approach going forward while it reviews its current policy to ensure that it continues to be a useful planning tool for UCLA and registered student organizations.”
Tamberg said in the statement that “basic security costs” are a few thousand dollars which the Bruin Republicans told the university they could not afford. He said the university “always planned” to pay all additional security costs if protests were triggered by the event.
UC Berkeley officials put in intense security for his talk earlier this fall, including shutting down and clearing out large swaths of the campus. Campus Republicans paid about $9,000 for that event and the university spent more than $600,000, UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said.
The protests that met Shapiro were relatively subdued compared to the protests in the spring when right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos tried to speak on campus.
Shapiro is a far less controversial figure. He resigned from the then-Stephen-Bannon-led Breitbart News after a colleague of his accused then-Trump-campaign-manager Corey Lewandowski of assaulting her.
During the election, his critiques of Trump made him one of the more prominent opponents of the then-Republican nominee in the conservative movement.
This opposition to candidate Trump also made him the target of anti-Semitic harassment. The Anti-Defamation League released a report last fall detailing anti-Semitic harassment of journalists on Twitter during the first half of the 2016 election cycle. It found Shapiro to be the No. 1 target.
There did not appear to be planned protests ahead of Shaprio’s visit to UCLA on Monday.