Across the nation, college administrators and law enforcement officials are bracing for a wild fall season of protests as their campuses become battlegrounds for society’s violent fringes, The New York Times reports. After a planned speech in February by the right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos attracted demonstrators who started fires and shattered windows, the University of California, Berkeley realized that “we did not have enough police officers,” said the university’s Dan Mogulof. Beginning this semester, student groups hosting large events are required to inform the college at least eight weeks in advance, so it has time to prepare a security plan. Berkeley is ready to spend as much as $500,000 to protect a single lecture.
The new protocol was announced on Sunday, a day after a woman was killed and dozens of people were injured in Charlottesville, Va., amid a series of white supremacist gatherings at the University of Virginia and in the city. On Monday, Texas A&M University announced that it would cancel a planned Sept. 11 appearance by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who was billed as a lead speaker of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. The University of Florida allows outside groups to rent space, even without student partners. Nevertheless, the school announced yesterday it had denied Spencer’s request to appear there on Sept. 12. It cited the violence in Charlottesville and social media posts declaring, “The Next Battlefield is in Florida.” University President Kent Fuchs said, “The likelihood of violence and potential injury – not the words or ideas – has caused us to take this action.” It is unclear if such an explanation would hold up in court. Because of the First Amendment, colleges and universities that rely on public funding have few legal options in preventing offensive lectures from taking place, especially if a student group is affiliated with the event.