The University of Texas at Austin is apologizing to conservative students after a public records request uncovered viewpoint discrimination bias in the form of a hefty security fee.

Young America’s Foundation partnered with the Young Conservatives of Texas to host former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn., at UT Austin in November. To their surprise, they were charged with an exorbitant security fee — more than any other campus group was charged to their knowledge.

UT Austin stuck conservative students with a $654 invoice for services of five security officers, citing Santorum’s high profile and the charged political climate that campuses have been facing in recent years. YAF filed a public records request with the University of Texas Police Department and found that UTPD levied a higher security fee on YCT for the Santorum lecture than any other student-organized event last year.

The invoices, provided by YAF to Red Alert Politics, show that, in fact, $654 was a larger amount charged to an organization on campus than any event within those files. Five UTPD officers were assigned to the Santorum speech.

On Wednesday, YAF sent UT Austin a letter, demanding the immediate rescission of a viewpoint discriminatory "security fee" that university administrators levied on conservative students.

“YCT should not be charged any security fee for this event. Furthermore, in order to ensure that this problem does not occur again in the future, Young America’s Foundation requests that you review your University’s practice of issuing security fees because the current security fee system abuses the First Amendment freedoms of UT-Austin students,” the six-page letter read in part.

Red Alert Politics contacted UT Austin regarding the grievances of YAF and YCT. The school's director of media relations, J.B. Bird, confirmed to Red Alert Politics that an error was made in their bookkeeping. The amount that should have been charged to YCT was $128, not $654.

Any other additional security costs, especially in anticipation of protesters, are to be paid for by UT itself, in part to ensure that the signature school of the Lone Star State remains content-neutral, Bird explained.

For an institution that’s had its share of wild, leftist demonstrations in recent years, most notably the distribution of sex toys around campus in protest of the open carry laws at public universities in Texas, Bird remained adamant that “the university vigorously defends freedom of speech, which is essential to the academic experience.”

UT Austin Police Capt. Charles Bonnet, who serves in the department’s Specialized Services Division, sent an apology email to the YCT explaining that their error in accounting was anticipating two officers for event security when in reality only one was necessary.

The number of officers present at a UT event is also related to YAF’s No. 2 concern: the questions YCT had to answer before hosting the event, which they view as having an anti-conservative bias.

These questions included:

  • Will there be any special guests (politicians or anyone controversial)?

  • What is the topic of the event?

  • Do you believe that a conflict could arise at the event?

  • Have you ever hosted this speaker before? If so, were there any issues at that event?

  • Have you asked him/her or their security detail if there were any issues at their past events?

  • Have you had any issues at any of your past events?

Bird and Bonnet contend that organizations are always surveyed this way in order to determine possible protests and manpower needed to keep students and attendees safe.

The UT police said in their email that they would properly account YCT.

Neil Dwyer is a graduate of the University of Miami, a political and sports broadcaster, and a freelancer writer.