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Young America Foundation v. Kaler

October 2017
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities (Public college or university)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • Students for a Conservative Voide
    Student
    Other

    Student group at the University of Minnesota that aims to promote conservative opinions and voices on campus.

  • Ben Shapiro
    Faculty/Staff
    Invited for non-academic lecture

    Popular conservative commentator and editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Recognized student group event
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration not protective of speech
    Other
  • Incident Status:
    In litigation Federal District Court
  • No protest Occured
  • Was Speech Code incident

Summary

In 2017, Students for a Conservative Voice (SCV), a student group at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, formulated a plan to bring conservative speaker Ben Shapiro onto campus for a lecture. Shapiro is known as an out-spoken conservative voice. In October 2017, SCV informed the University that it intended to bring Mr. Shapiro to campus in February of 2018. A university official informed SCV that Shapiro’s appearance would be subject to the University’s Large-Scale Events Policy (LSEP). The Policy applies when any registered student group proposes to hold a large-scale event on the University of Minnesota’s campus. This includes any event that takes place in a large campus venue or outdoor space that will draw a significant amount of the campus population, a large-off campus crowd, or represents a security concern. While a student group has the right to reserve a large campus venue, the

reservation will not be finalized until it is approved by the LSEP Committee, which includes representatives from various University departments. In order to be approved, a student group must put together a proposal detailing the possible logistics of the event.

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has two campuses, one in Minneapolis and the other in St. Paul. The campuses are three miles apart and are connected by bus, but a vast majority of the student live and study on the Minneapolis campus. The SCV attempted to reserve two possible locations on the Minneapolis campus: Mayo Hall and Willey Hall, which may seat 455 and 1056 people respectively. However, in December, 2017, the LSEP committee informed the SCV that Shapiro’s speech would instead have to be held on the St. Paul campus and would be capped at 500 attendees. The committee cited security concerns as the basis for its decision. The SCV reserved a 300-person venue on the St. Paul campus and tickets for the event immediately sold out. The rapidity of ticket sales led the SCV to renew their request to use a larger venue of the Minneapolis campus, but they were again denied. Shapiro ultimately spoke to a crowd of 450 people on the St. Paul campus.

The SCV alleged that University officials moved Shapiro’s speech to the more remote St. Paul campus because of his controversial conservative views. The group believed that University officials applied the LSEP in order to ensure that Shapiro’s speech would receive less attention, and that the security concerns cited were non-existent given that the University had hosted well-known liberal speakers in centrally-located lecture halls. In July, 2018, the SCV, along with the Young America’s Foundation and Ben Shapiro, filed suit against various university officials in Minnesota’s federal district court, alleging that the LSEP violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights facially and as-applied, and sought a permanent injunction against the University prohibiting it from enforcing the LSEP or otherwise restricting the Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. On February 26, 2019, the district court granted in part and denied in part the Defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that the allegations were sufficient to support a claim against the University for enforcing the LSEP in a discriminatory manner against the Plaintiffs and that the Plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged personal suits against the University’s Chief of Police and Vice President. The court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ facial challenges to the LSEP, as well as their claim against the President of the University, and ruled that the University officials were entitled to qualified immunity against Plaintiffs’ Fourteenth Amendment claim.