University Faces Lawsuit for Ideological Bias in Funding of Student Groups

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Try to imagine that the administration of a state university decided to give $300,000 to the school’s Students for Life group but no funds at all for its Gender Equity and LGBTQA Centers. Undoubtedly, there would be an outcry from the left over its discrimination based on points of view. We would probably be reading in the New York Times about how unjust and flagrantly illegal that action was.

But we know that college administrators are so overwhelmingly leftist in their orientation that nothing like that would ever occur.

That very thing has, however, occurred at Cal State–San Marcos (CSUSM), where school administrators every year ladle some $300,000 in funds that come from the mandatory fees charged to all students to groups that advocate for abortion rights and other leftist causes – but wouldn’t even provide $500 so the campus Students for Life chapter could host a speaker who would have argued against the ethics of abortion.

One student, Nathan Apodaca who heads up the CSUSM Students for Life group has complained about that and now the school faces a lawsuit. Mr. Apodaca has in his corner the formidable legal team of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). ADF’s press release on this case is illuminating.

Last year, the university’s Gender Equity Center and its LGBQTA Pride Center received a total of $296,498, which as more than 21 percent of the school’s funding for all student groups. Among the events they held were “Queer Women and the Pleasure Party” and “Kink 101” – an “interactive workshop” and discussion of bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism. How intellectually engaging is any of that?

However, when Mr. Apodaca requested $500 so his group could bring to campus UNC-Wilmington professor (and nationally-known writer) Mike Adams for a talk entitled “Abortion and Human Equality,” he was turned down.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life America, is quoted in the press release: “This is yet another example of a university using their power, along with student fees, to restrict speech they don’t agree with, giving credence to the emerging fact that tolerance does not apply to pro-life or conservative speech.”

That’s obviously true. CSUSM officials aren’t interested in balance or fairness. They have their preferences and act on them.

The problem is that doing so is illegal. When the Supreme Court confronted this issue in the Regents of the University of Wisconsin v. Southworth case in 2000, the Court’s unanimous decision was that when state universities use student fees to fund extracurricular speech, they must do so in a “viewpoint neutral” manner. It will be very hard for CSUSM to convince any neutral judge that its dispensing of funds has been “viewpoint neutral.” You can read ADF’s complaint in the case here.

Counsel for the university might consider settling, since ADF has won similar lawsuits against the likes of the University of Michigan and Texas A&M.

Let us hope that Apodaca prevails in this case.

I would also like to suggest a solution that cuts this Gordian Knot. Colleges and universities should stop using mandatory student fees to support student groups entirely.

Such funding goes back far in time, to the days when fundraising was very difficult on any but the smallest basis. In the present, however, student groups can raise funds readily through the Internet. Instead of imposing an additional cost on all students and then allowing officials to dole out the money (and fighting for a semblance of fairness), we should tell student groups to raise whatever money they want  themselves, rather than pleading for it from the school.

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