Blair, in contrast, told CNA that the university’s “security policy is clearly stated and applied and is not based on the viewpoint of a proposed speaker.”
“UNM encourages its student groups to sponsor events on campus and provides extensive staff resources to aid their endeavors,” Blair said. “In this case, UNMPD took reasonable actions to protect all persons exercising their constitutional rights to speak.”
Blair said the school’s Students for Life chapter agreed to the fee before the event. She added that the administration “greatly appreciates” the group’s “willingness to operate as a partner with regard to the planned event and take responsibility for assisting UNM in hosting an event in a manner that does not violate the constitutionally protected rights of others or pose a danger to anyone on campus.”
“The ultimate charge following the event,” Blair explained, “was based on the security deployed and deemed necessary by the incident commander on the date of the event.”
Ultimately, Blair said, the pro-life group was charged one-third less than the originally projected fee because “lower than expected turnout” meant that “several officers were sent home early.”
Barham in his letter to the university granted that the student group accepted the potential fees before the event, but he argued that “to treat acceptance of a tentative figure given this power imbalance as a knowing, fully-informed, and voluntary waiver of constitutional rights is ridiculous.”
Barham told CNA that university officials have not yet responded to his letter.
“We await a response from the University of New Mexico and hope that they will rescind security fees,” he said. “Universities have a responsibility to protect the speech of all students, and by charging Students for Life over $5,000 in security fees, the University of New Mexico is violating that responsibility.”
This was not the first time that the Students for Life chapter at the University of New Mexico faced difficulties in hosting on-campus events.
In early November 2022, university officials informed Victoria Trujillo, then one of the group’s student leaders, that she had to move a pro-life event scheduled to take place on Election Day, Nov. 8, because of security concerns “due to the subject matter,” according to a post by Trujillo on Students for Life’s website. University officials said they would be unable to provide adequate security for the event amid the election.
The event ended up taking place on the scheduled day at an off-campus location.
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Caroline Wharton, a representative for Students for Life America, told CNA that “it’s sad to see universities and colleges placing financial burdens on young students who just want to use their First Amendment rights.”
“The price for free speech has already been paid by our brave service members,” Wharton said. “But if you’re pro-life at the University of New Mexico, that’s apparently not enough. For standing up for the preborn and advocating for vulnerable women, it’s going to cost you a lot more, thousands of dollars more.”