From the SFLA Blog

UNC-Chapel Hill Appears to Choke Pro-Life Free Speech with Excessive, Discriminatory Fees After Kristan Hawkins’ Tour Stop 

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Caroline Wharton - 07 Dec 2023
Guest post by SFLA Legal Operations Supervisor Olivia Torralba

GUEST POST: In mid-October this semester, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Students for Life of America (SFLA) group — called the “Carolina Students for Life” — hosted SFLA President Kristan Hawkins on campus for her fall speaking tour entitled “I’m Coming for Your Abortion Access.”   

The Carolina Students for Life worked hard to organize the event over the course of several months; what they didn’t prepare for, however, was a huge bill that essentially came out of nowhere from their school administration. Apparently, the price of free speech is steep — at least at Chapel Hill. Here’s what happened:   

Before the event on October 17, the group was told in advance that they’d likely be paying $224 for security.   

However, on the actual day of the event, the University Security department decided to assign more than a dozen officers to their event and send the Carolina Students for Life the bill, charging them a whopping $3,877.05. 

The final security invoice was more than 17 times the amount of the original security estimate. 

To top it off, the school also did not complete their own protocols regarding event payment fees. The administration neglected to share any accurate estimates with Carolina Students for Life prior to their event, and the student group was consequently shocked by the final invoices. Wouldn’t we all be with such a jump?  

The Carolina Students for Life President Lauren Song shared her thoughts when she received the invoice: 

“When I got the $6,000 invoice, I felt very overwhelmed and surprised because we never got total cost estimates. I wasn’t sure what was going on. I reached out to other conservative groups on campus and found that they received total cost estimates when they hosted their speakers. They were also charged significantly less. This made me feel even more suspicious that perhaps discrimination was happening.”

Song reached out to SFLA’s legal counsel for help, and a demand letter has now been sent to the school in order to fight some of these charges. The letter reads in part, “Some might consider Student for Life’s pro-life views controversial, but this is the reason for granting the speech more protection, not for charging it higher fees.”  

(Click HERE to read an op-ed published at the Daily Wire by two other Chapel Hill SFLA students entitled “Is Speech on Campus Really Free? How Pro-Life Views Are Stifled by Universities.”) 

Song hopes that the school will be more reasonable after reading the letter which appeals multiple of the fees, and this is exactly the purpose of such action. It’s not only ridiculous to target pro-life speech in such a way, it’s also unconstitutional. As a publicly funded institution, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a duty to respect the First Amendment and protect their students’ rights — pro-life students are no exception to that rule.   

Stay tuned to the SFLA blog for updates on this case as we continue to push back against pro-life censorship and discrimination. If you’re facing similar problems at your institution, please reach out to [email protected] — we can help you through your individual situation.  

READ NEXT: Hosting SFLA President Kristan Hawkins’ Speaking Tour: November in Florida Brought Cold But Hawkins Brought the Heat 

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