Campuses Grapple With Balancing Free Speech and Security After Protests

The new policy, posted on the university’s website in February and reported by CNN last week, is intended to give students or other groups affiliated with the university priority when assigning facilities. If the university is going to incur security and overtime costs associated with controversial speakers, Ms. Smith said, at least it will be for its own students.

“We are not an American Legion hall,” she said.

The university, a state institution with about 66,000 students located in College Station in east-central Texas, is not alone. In interviews, officials at a half dozen higher education institutions say they are taking steps to address the consequences of allowing provocative speakers amid heightened awareness of racial, ethnic, religious and diversity issues after the election of Donald J. Trump.

They are exchanging safety tips. Some are increasing communication with students, raising fees for security, creating teams to re-examine policy, and frequently reassuring alumni. The debate is complicated, as institutions try to balance their support for free speech with the ethics and security costs of hosting controversial figures.

In 2016, there were 43 reported instances of revoked invitations or attempts to block speakers at universities and colleges because of protests over their ideas, said Ari Z. Cohn, a director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. In contrast, there were six in 2000, he said.

Mr. Cohn said the increased use of social media in recent years might be partially responsible for influencing the data because it creates wider awareness of the ideas of controversial speakers and informs a larger number of people about the appearance.

“Administrations are all trying to grapple with the implications of all this and how to address it,” Mr. Cohn said. “This may be the time of reckoning for this particular aspect of the free speech movement…

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