On April 18, Intercollegiate Studies Institute and College Republicans hosted Michael Knowles in a debate. Brad Polumbo was the moderator. The debate was entitled “Should Transgenderism be Regulated By Law?”. Thirty minutes were allotted for audience questions, followed by an informal meet-and-greet with Knowles. Knowles, a prominent conservative, is regularly targeted by leftists for his views about transgenderism and other issues. The school charged each group $18,734 in security fees.
Alliance Defending Freedom (who represents the groups) notes that the event was planned months in advance and that sponsors met the school’s requirements. Initially, the university informed ISI that they would have to pay $2,000 in security fees. ISI received a $16,925 charge six days before Knowles’s arrival on campus. According to ADF, the increased cost was due to the possibility of violence and damages that could result from the event.
The college urged students who disagreed to protest Knowles’ appearance. ADF wrote the following in a letter addressed to Geovette Washington, Senior Vice-Chancellor and Chief Legal Office of the University:
In a letter to the Pitt Community, Provost Ann Cudd described a recent Michael Knowles speech as “repugnant”. She also called for the cancellation of the event. On April 14, Professor Mahoney informed her students that the Theatre Arts Department, along with other departments, students, and faculty at Pitt, have strongly condemned this event. They also called on the university to cancel Knowles’ appearance because of his history of inciting violence and spreading hate speech against trans people.
Protestors gathered in large numbers to attend the event, where they proceeded to push attendees, throw smoke bombs and burn Knowles as an effigy. ADF claims that Pitt police failed to prevent protestors from blocking streets and getting within striking distance of attendees. Campus police shut down the event due to a “deteriorating situation”.
ADF claims that the First Amendment rights of students were violated. The college’s incitement to protest and the extra fee are also alleged as being unconstitutional. The ISI demands that the university cancel the $18,000 charge, clarify its guidelines for campus-wide events, and pay ISI damages.
The University of Pittsburgh sent a clear message, even to the casual observer. This message said, “We do not like your kind.” We don’t like you. We can’t stop your arrival, but we can make the event as expensive as we can. It would be a shame to lose it.
The event was altered at the request of the faculty, and even the Provost Cudd. The University of Pittsburgh figured that, since it couldn’t cancel the event it could at least make it cost-prohibitive. The University of Pittsburgh then unleashed its attack dogs in order to create the chaos and violence the “fee’ was meant to prevent. It was done with tacit approval from campus police officers, who were either too self-interested or craven to protect the event attendees.
ADF might succeed in having the fee canceled. The University of Pittsburgh may even issue a halfhearted apology. The event is now over, and the damage done has already been done. The message is sent to any other event organizers who may be interested: keep your head down and your mouth shut. Or else. You wouldn’t like a boot in the face, would you?