Boise State University revises speaker policies after student pressure

Boise State imposed $465 in security fees on its Young Americans for Liberty chapter in May just 24-hours before Dick Heller was to speak.

BSU rescinded the fees after pressure from civil rights groups and now says it will replace and revise policies so as to balance operational needs with freedom of expression.

The First Amendment has won a second victory at Boise State University (BSU), after the university agreed to revise its speaker policies and those surrounding the use of campus grounds for demonstrations and displays.

In May, BSU required that its Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter pay $465 in additional security fees less than a day before the group was to host a pro-Second Amendment speaker. Additionally, the university removed the event’s information from BSU websites and denied YAL permission to pass out literature.

The speaker, Dick Heller, gained recognition among conservative groups after winning a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case which allowed residents of the District of Columbia to buy and own handguns. According to BSU, extra security was needed for the event because a community member encouraged open carry of firearms at the event.

After pressure from groups including Idaho Freedom Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, BSU rescinded the fees but refused to change its policies regarding its handling of the Heller event.

However, BSU has changed its mind once more, and will replace and revise multiple policies “in a manner that strikes the proper balance between the University’s operational and educational needs and yet fully protects the freedom of expression that we have a shared interest in preserving.”

“[W]e need to provide [students] some assurance that policies needing some improvement will not be utilized to chill or otherwise restrict speech protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution,” the university said in a letter.

Geoffrey Talmon, the director for the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s Center for Defense of Liberty, said his organization applauds the university’s policy changes.

“Our goal throughout this process has been to work with the university to revise some of its policies,” Talmon said in a press release. “We are happy BSU is working with us and ACLU of Idaho to make the university a place where speech is protected and encouraged.”

Talmon believes Boise State will set a precedent for other universities to follow.

“BSU will be a benchmark of free speech when this process is complete, and that’s great for everyone,” Talmon said.

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