Three months ago, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire canceled a College Republicans event featuring journalist Andy Ngo in response to violent threats made by Antifa activists and "concerning information" the school claimed it received from Hanover police.
Now, the school is insisting that Dartmouth College Republicans pay $3,600 in security fees for the canceled event and warning that failure to pay the fees will result in the club being unable to request further funds from the school.
On Tuesday, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent a letter to Dartmouth College demanding that the school "immediately rescind the security fee charge" and permit the College Republicans chapter to request funding to host future events.
"Forcing the group to shoulder these security costs — based on detractors' disruption at no fault of the College Republicans — and refusing to fund future College Republicans events until these exorbitant fees are paid, infringes the expressive and associational rights Dartmouth promises to its students," FIRE's Sabrina Conza wrote to Dartmouth President Philip J. Hanlon.
The planned event with Ngo in January was moved online after his physical visit to campus was canceled. At the time, Dartmouth College claimed that it had received unspecified "concerning information" from Hanover police "regarding safety issues" for the event. In response to requests from FIRE for clarification about why the in-person event was canceled, the school said it was "deeply concerned about the credible threats to participant safety shared by local law enforcement" before the event with Ngo was scheduled to begin.
However, FIRE also requested clarification from the Hanover police, which shared public records and a letter from the police chief stating that law enforcement "did not make a recommendation to Dartmouth College regarding the January 20th event."
The letter from Chief of Police Charles B. Dennis said that "the information and concerns we had received from student organizers, event organizers, the speaker, open-source information available online referencing the event, and information through law enforcement channels was credible and caused us concern for the safety of those attending the event, protesting the event, as well as our community members."
"With the information we had, we were operationally prepared as best we could to handle the event and protest," Dennis said.
In a statement to Inside Higher Ed, a spokesperson for Dartmouth College affirmed the school's support for "freedom of expression and dissent."
The school said that student organizations are responsible for event-related security costs and said that "leaders of the college Republican club were aware of their responsibility for security fees for the event and received an estimate in advance, with enough time to submit a funding request for these costs. They did not request this funding. The club was also aware of the possibility that the event might need to be adjusted to address safety concerns expressed by the organizers themselves.”