Just two days before controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to visit campus last week, University officials suspended a $3,400 security fee that the hosting group, College Republicans, were told they would have to pay.
That decision, according to acting UNM President Chaouki Abdallah, was born out of a desire by UNM regents to take a look at the portion of University policy pertaining to security services, specifically in connection to free speech events.
Now that policy is officially under review, but officials say there is no timeline for when the process may be completed. However, Policy Office Director Pamina Deutsch says any recommended changes submitted by University Counsel will be shared with the UNM community in order to be transparent.
The policy in question was adopted in 2007, and has not been changed since. It states that groups hosting speakers of a controversial nature must work with UNMPD by filling out and submitting a form that provides specifics such as expected number of attendees and details on the event itself.
“After an analysis of the event, program, or facility rental based on currently available information the UNM Police Department will determine the number of police officers, security officers or combination of officers required to reasonably address the safety and security of participants, and the UNM Police Department will contract for such services,” the policy states.
The policy also states that UNMPD has the power to cancel an event if it deems that the security risk is too high.
While a large contingent of demonstrators chanted in protest of Yiannopoulos and the Friday engagement in the same area that event attendees – not all of them supporters – were lining up and waiting to enter the SUB, the two groups never came to blows beyond words.
Nonetheless, there was a large contingent of not only UNMPD officers, but also city, county and state police on hand as a precaution.
At a recent Board of Regents meeting, one board member brought up concerns about how the policy may restrict free speech events on a campus where free speech and differences of opinion are encouraged.
"I am requesting a review of the current policies to insure that the method for imposing security fees does not have the effect of inhibiting the legitimate expression of free speech," said UNM Regent Thomas Clifford.
And according to University spokesperson Dianne Anderson, it is unlikely the policy will remain the same.
However, officials say if the policy remains unchanged following the review, College Republicans could retroactively be charged the $3,400 security fee.
“But,” she added, “that may be a moot point, because of concerns about free speech.”
Even before the policy called for groups to be assessed security fees by UNMPD, the practice was used for some events that caused security concerns.
David Lynch is the editor in chief at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.