The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has a report on the case of a Western Michigan University student group whose invite to a rap artist was rejected based on false charges.

The Kalamazoo Peace Center (KPC) had invited activist and rapper Boots Riley to give a performance at their annual “Peace Week” event.  They were then told there was no room at the school.

… When pressed for a reason, she told KPC that previous events at WMU involving Riley had caused disruption requiring police intervention.

This came as news to Riley’s booking manager, who informed KPC that Riley had never previously set foot on WMU’s campus. When confronted with this fact, the WMU administrator shifted gears, claiming that it was Riley’s “affiliates” who had caused the prior disruption. KPC eventually came to learn that these so-called “affiliates” were people who had participated in the “Occupy” movement on WMU’s campus in 2011 and 2012.

That’s right—WMU decided that Boots Riley should be held responsible for the actions of anyone participating in a famously decentralized movement, one that Riley says he initially didn’t even support’

…In deciding that such a determination required county administrators to “examine the content of the message that is conveyed” (citation omitted), the Court stated that “[l]isteners’ reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation. … Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.”

Of course, this is precisely what WMU did here, as WMU Department of Public Safety Chief Blaine Kalafut was all too willing to admit:

“It’s on a case-by-case basis,” said Kalafut, explaining that there is no specific guidelines for RSOs when it comes to speakers, and that it depends on the history of the speaker, and possible disruptions that may be caused on campus.[…]

It is difficult to imagine a statement that more clearly exhibits every hallmark of unconstitutionality recognized by the Supreme Court. The security policy is admittedly absent from WMU’s written policies pertaining to student organizations, giving the administration unbridled discretion to impose security fees. When that discretion is exercised, WMU acknowledges that it imposes fees on events featuring speakers who convey controversial or unpopular messages. By holding student organizations hosting expressive events responsible for whatever disruptive activity results from the controversy of these events, WMU allows anyone to burden or censor speech with which they disagree by threatening a disturbance and forcing the event host to pay a security fee. In such a situation, disruptive protests win out over responsible expressive activity. That result cannot stand at a public institution of higher education—not morally, and certainly not legally. Controversial speech cannot be unduly burdened simply because it is controversial.

WMU has gotten away with these constitutional violations—until now.