New Student Activities policy could see organizations paying $3,500 to host ‘expressive events’

Events categorized as "expressive" by Baylor now face a fee of up to $3,500. Student Activities noticed an uptick in these costs in early fall and decided the responsibility must be transferred to the organizations themselves. Camie Jobe | Photographer

By Josh Siatkowski | Staff Writer

Baylor has enacted a change in its policy toward “expressive activities,” charging student organizations up to $3,500 for police and fire safety fees for events that qualify.

Dr. Unswella Ankton, associate director for student involvement, said expressive activity is a term that is “under construction” with the help of many people at Baylor.

In a general sense, Ankton said expressive events are “events that could be politically charged, any events connected to a world event, any event that could have a conflicting view from the opposing side.”

Ankton also said the fee has always existed for expressive events. However, Student Activities was paying it until fall 2023. When Student Activities noticed an uptick in these costs in early fall, it decided that the responsibility must be transferred to the organizations themselves.

According to Ankton, the cost will be incurred if an organization wants to host an expressive event indoors and make it open to those who are not members of the group.

The fee, which varies based on the case, helps pay for required safety protocols for an event that is held in an indoor space and open to the public. Although BUPD is funded through tuition dollars already, a fire safety crew must be hired to ensure the safety of the event — which is not covered by tuition.

Ankton said she knows the fee is “pretty hefty,” but it isn’t there to discourage organizations from hosting this type of event.

“This is not a fee to prevent you from doing this. This is not even a fee for your actual event,” Ankton said. “This is to say, ‘Hey, BUPD and fire safety want to be present for your event.’”

Ankton said there are alternatives for organizations, including hosting the event outside during regular working hours, hosting the event in the SUB Gameroom or saying the event is closed to non-members on the Baylor Connect page.

“We want them to be able to do this,” Ankton said.

Ankton said for most of the events that took place on campus and were deemed expressive since the policy change, the fee has been avoided, whether it be through moving the location of the event or making it members-only. To Ankton’s knowledge, only two groups have actually had to pay the police and fire safety fees so far.

Baylor’s Alexander Hamilton Society is among the student organizations that have been affected by the policy change, according to Pittsburgh junior and Baylor AHS president Luke D’Ambrosio.

D’Ambrosio said AHS is a national organization that helps individual campus chapters “pay for speakers to come out to campus and talk to students about current events and foreign affairs.”

Although AHS is a nonpartisan organization that values “objective dialogue on campuses,” D’Ambrosio said he still received notice that its events would be classified as expressive activity due to its discussion of controversial current events, like the Middle East and elections.

D’Ambrosio said he received an email from Student Activities in early March saying that the organization’s next meeting would have to be outside or closed to the public to avoid the fee. Because its gatherings, like those of most organizations, are members-only events already, the club did not have to pay the fee.