Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House, will speak at Cornell on Wednesday, but Cornell Republicans will pay a fraction of the fees they forked over for Rick Santorum's lecture.

Damon Winter / The New York Times

Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House, will speak at Cornell on Wednesday, but Cornell Republicans will pay a fraction of the fees they forked over for Rick Santorum's lecture.

March 16, 2017

In Shift, Cornell to Pay Bulk of Security Fees for Gingrich Lecture

Print More

Cornell is picking up the tab for nearly all security fees associated with former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s lecture on Wednesday, a sudden change after years of charging security fees to organizations hosting controversial events.

The change comes less than two weeks after The Sun reported that conservative campus organizations paid nearly $6,000 in security fees for lectures since fall 2015 — most notably a $5,000 security charge for hosting Rick Santorum in November.

“Cornell University is currently reviewing its policy regarding security fees for campus events,” John Carberry, director of media relations, said in a statement. “While that process is underway, the Cornell University Police and the administration were happy to work with the College Republicans to reach an agreement on security support for the group’s upcoming March 22 event.”

Carberry did not respond to inquiries about when the policy review began or how much security is expected to cost, but members of Cornell Republicans said they were asked to pay $500 for two campus police officers — 10 percent of the $5,000 total cost.

Austin McLaughlin ’18, executive director of Cornell Republicans, said he and other stakeholders have met several times with Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, since the fall semester to discuss the security fees.

On Monday, Cornell Police notified McLaughlin and Olivia Corn ’19, chair of Cornell Republicans, that the University planned to pay the vast majority of the security cost for the Gingrich event.

“This is one of the best pieces of news that I’ve heard in the last couple of weeks,” Corn said of Cornell’s decision. “It showed us for the first time that the Cornell administration cares about our organization on campus and cares that we bring these wonderful speakers and put on these events.”

The shift is not an official change in policy, McLaughlin noted, and Gingrich’s lecture in Call Auditorium on Wednesday will act as a test-run for a potential, long-term shift.

Student protesters disrupted Rick Santorum’s event in November by shouting repeatedly at the former Republican senator. The Young Democratic Socialists’ Cornell chapter said in a tweet on Wednesday that protests at next week’s lecture are likely.

“We fully acknowledge both Mr. Gingrich’s and Cornell Republicans’ right to free speech; however, we also acknowledge that Gingrich has been dangerously instrumental in normalizing President Trump’s vile rhetoric and policies,” Cornell Young Democratic Socialists said in a statement, promising to “expose and vehemently oppose Gingrich’s destructive policies.”

One of the plans the University and Cornell Republicans are discussing, McLaughlin said, is an agreement that Cornell pay all security costs above a certain amount — possibly $500 — and also institute a ceiling for how much the University is willing to spend.

McLaughlin said the ceiling would be reasonable to protect the University from having to fork over tens of thousands of dollars to provide security for someone like Milo Yiannopoulos, a self-described provocateur whose scheduled event in February at UC Berkeley was cancelled after protests and property destruction.

“The argument is going to be about where the threshold should be,” McLaughlin said.

Cornell’s previous policy of not covering security fees, McLaughlin said, was effectively a policy that only hindered conservative groups on campus. The president of the Cornell Democrats previously told The Sun that the organization had not paid security fees in the last several years because security was not required for the group’s events.

Prof. William Jacobson, law, who has written about Cornell’s security fees on his conservative website, Legal Insurrection, said the short-term policy is “helpful,” but that even the greatly-reduced fee unequally affects groups hosting conservative speakers.

“[T]he reality on this campus is that right-of-center speakers are most likely to be deemed controversial or subjected to threats of disruption,” Jacobson said in an email. “As such, any security fee places a disproportionate burden on right-of-center speech, and serves as a form of heckler’s veto on conservative speech.”

Corn said she and other Cornell Republicans members would have had to bankrupt the campus group in order to pay the security fees if Cornell had not agreed to subsidize most of the cost. A donor covered Gingrich’s speaking fee, which is more than $50,000, Corn said.

With the policy review ongoing, McLaughlin said Cornell may create a working group after Gingrich’s lecture that comprises administrators, student government members, a CUPD representative and members of the affected groups.

The review comes at a time when many other Universities are moving away from subsidizing security fees, McLaughlin said.

Cornell “would be bucking the norm if [it] did this, which I think would be a good thing,” he said. “All of the administration kind of realizes what has happened so far and … that it’s really unfair to the discourse on campus.”

If the change is codified, McLaughlin said, it would allow groups like Cornell Republicans and the Cornell Political Union to invite conservative and right-leaning speakers without worrying about exorbitant security fees.

In the short-term, members of the Cornell Republicans plan to save the additional $4,500 they had expected to pay and use it to fund additional, future events.

“We’re also going to try and put on a really nice dinner for Mr. Gingrich,” Corn added.

  • Andy K.

    As a proud Cornell alum from the late 1970’s, a time of great activism, I remember how the left-leaning campus respectfully attended talks given by William F. Buckley and William Colby — both arch conservatives. (Google them if you don’t know who they are.) Students asked tough, pointed questions. But they didn’t shout them down; they listened and engaged in a meaningful dialogue even though there was great divergence in viewpoints and beliefs. The world did not end when these people were allowed to speak, even though many viewed their politics as hateful or wrongheaded. And so we come to today, where we need to hire extra security for a talk given by a former Speaker of the House. I read with dismay that Rick Santorum (I’m not a fan) was repeatedly heckled and shouted down when he spoke at Cornell not long ago. As an alum, I was disturbed by that intolerance and rudeness on the campus I so dearly love. And we see this playing out on other campuses across the country, where speakers are heckled and not allowed to speak. What is going on here?? Are we afraid of words? Are we afraid that people with views with which we disagree, or even repulse us, will somehow infect the minds of others on campus? Maybe people should be allowed to go and listen, use their brains, make up their own minds, and engage in a civil discussion with the speaker — if they so choose. To those on the political left, imagine if the shoe were on the other foot and campus was dominated by right-leaning students. How would you feel if Bernie Sanders or President Obama came to speak on campus and were shouted down and prevented from speaking? If you don’t think that would be right or fair, then heckling Santorum or Gingrich is hypocritical. If you don’t agree with Gingrich, or don’t want to listen to what he has to say, then simply stay home. Please don’t interfere with the rights of others to speak — and the rights of others to listen.

  • Reality Check

    The most interesting element in this story is the confirmation that Gingrich’s fee will be north of $50K. How can it be cost-effective for any interests to spend that much money to provide a speaker who will generate far more heat than light with respect to important issues?

  • #Biden2020

    So the donor can spend $50k to bring a racist homophobe to campus but cannot pay for security? SMH Cornell Republicans out of touch as usual

    • borris batanov

      This demonizing someone you don’t agree with knee-jerk name calling is a key symptom of the intolerance of the Left. Epitaphs like “racist” and “homophobe” trigger immediate hateful angry emotional responses, as in Pavlovian dogs.

      Although I am a Conservative and not a Gingrich fan, I have never heard him utter anything that could be construed to be “racist” or a “homophobe”. This is simple mud slinging and name-calling, garden variety mob mentality.

      My opinion is that instant, unchecked, usually anonymous online communication online fosters this stupidity.

    • Duh

      Gingrich supported gay marriage before Hillary Clinton did, so I hope you’re also labeling her a homophobe.

      • AltFacts

        Please show me where Gingrich now or has ever supported same-sex marriage. Also, being against same-sex marriage doesn’t equate to being a homophobe.

        • borris batanov

          So now the Leftist Nazi demands that unless you advocate for homosexual marriage, you’re a “homophobe!” So much for freedom of thought and diversity of opinion. Heil!

  • RuKidding

    Newt Gingrich is a controversial speaker? Get a life people.

  • Jim

    The “shift” is because there’s a new administration in Washington that might have some questions for an institution receiving many millions in federal funds, and then charging student groups “security fees” based on the politics of their speakers.

    This is a financial decision, and when the Democrats return to power in Washington, the security fees will be jacked right back up.


    In 1963, Gus Hall, chairman of the Communist Party of the US, spoke at Bailey Hall, sponsored by von Cramm Cooperative, led by David Lopez ’63. Von Cramm also sponsored a lecture a few weeks later by Barry Goldwater, then beginning his successful bid for the Republican nomination for president in 1964. Both speakers were anathema to people of the opposite political persuasion, and people in Ithaca took particular exception to Hall’s appearance, according to the Ithaca Journal. Although Bailey was packed for both speakers, neither was heckled. I don’t recall any special security being required. Goldwater also chatted with a smaller group in the Memorial Room after his Bailey appearance–no security whatever. I sat on the floor six feet away from his chair.

    As a longtime liberal and sometime activist, I understand the importance of direct action to make sure one’s point of view is visible and audible. Even disruption may sometimes be a reasonable tactic. But free speech that aims to drown out someone else’s free speech can be counter-productive and can invite repression…..Bart Mills ’64

  • DJT

    You just gotta love the loony liberals’ inability to engage in logical debates. You can be assured that 1 minute into the argument, you will be labelled every nasty name you might not even have heard of. People, if a libtard call you a racist/bigot/or whatever, take that as a badge of honor, because then you know the libtard had no other way to win the debate but to shout you down!

    • LM

      oh please stop with the name calling. It just makes you sound small minded and ignorant. And anything you have to say will be dismissed immediately. For instance, I stopped reading what you had to say after I read “loony”.

  • Bill Cavazos

    Wow, no way! I am so proud of my Cornell. Never would I have thought they would allow former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich on Cornell property. Way to go guys.

  • Linda Mu

    “If the change is codified, McLaughlin said, it would allow groups like Cornell Republicans and the Cornell Political Union to invite conservative and right-leaning speakers without worrying about exorbitant security fees.”

    I hope that someone will put an annual cap on the total amount spent by ALL groups for security, ensuring that there are not multiple (for instance no more than 4) expensive security intensive events and/or making sure the group pays for half the security (skin in the game and thus ensuring a group does not purposely bring extremely controversial figures to campus). This also ensure that groups petition/plan in advance for speakers.

  • Pingback: DSA in the News – New Ground()

  • Chris Fishers

    Perhaps the University would not need to spend so much for security at these lectures if they started making examples of the violent protesters. Expel a few and hold Mommy and Daddy financially responsible for any damages and I’m sure the little snowflakes would quickly learn proper manners.