KENT — Kent State University will no longer charge student groups security fees for events, according to documents filed in federal court this week.
That includes a Nov. 19 event organized by gun-rights student group Liberty Hangout, which filed a lawsuit against the school last month, saying the security fee policy is a violation of the students’ rights to free speech and freedom of assembly. The university won’t charge the group security fees for the event.
The university’s vice president for general counsel, Willis Walker, said in a court document filed Wednesday that he directed the university’s administrative policy on security fees and damages be removed. Walker said with the removal, the university will no longer charge security fees for registered student organizations or university departments.
Federal Judge John Adams in November barred Kent State from charging Liberty Hangout an estimated $1,800 for security for the Nov. 19 event, “Let’s Talk Gun Rights,” featuring “gun girl” and Kent State alumna Kaitlin Bennett. Only about 40 people came to the discussion.
Adams, who granted a temporary restraining order on the security fee, said at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Akron that he was “gravely concerned” that imposing the fee would impinge on the students’ and Bennett’s free-speech rights, according to Cleveland.com.
Adams is set to rule Dec. 13 on the student group’s request for a preliminary injunction that would continue the prohibition on charging the fees.
The university on Wednesday requested the Dec. 13 hearing be canceled, calling it moot because the university has removed the policy and won’t charge Liberty Hangout for security for the November event.
Liberty Hangout in court documents filed Wednesday opposed canceling the Dec. 13 hearing.
Attorneys for Liberty Hangout questioned what the current security fee policy is now that the earlier policy was removed or if the university could charge Liberty Hangout or other student groups under a different policy.
“As this is pending litigation, we have nothing to add at this time,” Kent State spokesman Eric Mansfield said Friday.
Kent State paid $65,000 in security for a Sept. 29 open-carry walk organized by Bennett and others, not the student group, because the event was not sponsored by a student organization, according to a KSU lawyer’s email that was part of the lawsuit filing.
Bennett has said she plans to hold a similar walk at the University of Akron in the future.
Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.