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UNM president suspends security fee for free speech events pending review

UNM interim president Chaouki Abdallah

UNM acting president Chaouki Abdallah

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico’s acting president Chaouki Abdallah has suspended a policy that would have required a student group to pay $3,400 to host the controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulos today.

The university can later decide to collect that fee following a legal review of the overall policy for such events.

Abdallah said regents expressed concerns with the security fee and how it might impact free speech, so he chose to suspend it and review the policy.

“The University of New Mexico is committed to the principles of free speech, and values our role as a marketplace of ideas in the community,” Abdallah said in a statement late Wednesday.

That decision was the latest controversy involving Yiannopoulos, a right-wing provocateur and writer for Breitbart News.

Some student groups argue his type of speech has no place on campus.

Milo Yiannopoulos

Milo Yiannopoulos

Numerous fliers expressing antagonism and protest toward Yiannopoulos have gone up around the campus. One reads, “Shut down hate speech.” Another stated, “Milo Yiannopoulos is a Nazi … throw eggs at him.” Some students asked Abdallah to bar Yiannopoulos from coming to campus.

Yiannopoulos, who is gay, is scheduled to visit campus today as part of his “Dangerous Faggot Tour.” He has written articles for Breitbart with headlines such as “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews” and was permanently banned from Twitter in connection with a harassment campaign that included racist insults directed at actress Leslie Jones.

In contrast, the group hosting the event, the UNM College Republicans, had protested the university fee and equated it to a “free speech fine.”

They launched an online fundraising event and, as of Thursday afternoon, had raised $3,770, about $300 more than needed to cover the fee. The head of that group, Marina Herrera, said she would ask the donors if the group could keep the money for future events. Those who decline, she said, would get their money back.

Herrera said she recognized the right of student groups to protest the event, but she said she hopes it remains peaceful.

“We don’t want to see any violence come out of it,” Herrera told the Journal.

Earlier this month at the University of Washington, a person was shot during a protest of Yiannopoulos. Other protests at college campuses have become heated enough to cancel the event. The Albuquerque event is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. According to an event web page, it has sold out.

According to UNM staff, access to the SUB will be restricted starting at 4 p.m. Only people with a ticket will be allowed to the event. For more information about closings around campus, visit UNM’s Facebook page.

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