University Of Florida Sued By Conservative Student Group.

The conservative group Young Americans for Freedom chapter at the University of Florida is suing the University of Florida over claims that the school violated the groups First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (The complaint can be found here.)

The suit alleges the University applies an arbitrary process which decides which student organizations are “budgeted” and “non-budgeted.” After a speech by New York Times bestselling conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, the University changed the rules and now does not allow “non-budgeted” student groups to receive funding to pay for the speaker.

According to the Young Americas Foundation:

Over the last two years, UF YAF is the only non-budgeted student organization to request student activity funding to pay for a guest speakers’ honoraria.

“UF officials are actively trying to stifle the University of Florida Young Americans for Freedom chapter on the basis of the students’ conservative beliefs,” said Young America’s Foundation Spokesman Spencer Brown. “This past year, the University of Florida denied UF YAF funding to host Dana Loesch and Andrew Klavan. That denial—and the timing of policy changes that, in function, only impact UF YAF—speaks loudly to the University of Florida’s true intention to prevent conservative ideas being heard on campus. The First Amendment guarantees all students the right to free expression, yet the University of Florida seems to think that it has the power to arbitrarily deprive students of their free speech rights,” added Brown. “This viewpoint censorship has to stop.”

“University of Florida administrators are limiting YAF members’ First Amendment freedoms by forcing them to pay into a system that funds opposing viewpoints. Worse yet, the university forces YAF to play an arbitrary, complex game of Chutes and Ladders in the funding process, wherein the student group can continually be sent back to the beginning of the game at the sole discretion of the student government. The university also changed its rules to single out and disqualify the conservative group from receiving funding for speakers fees and honoraria—making it even more difficult for the group to express its viewpoint on campus,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Blake Meadows.

The money issue is not insignificant when it comes to the students who pay them:

All UF students pay a $19.06 activity fee for every credit hour they take. That money is collected and then distributed by student government to hundreds of student-based organizations.

The suit says that plaintiffs Weldon and Long have spent $1,829.76 and $1,658.22 in credit fees, respectively, during their time at UF.

The University is denying any wrongdoing:

UF Communications spokeswoman Margot Winick rejected those assertions when contacted by The Washington Times.

“The University of Florida is committed to upholding the First Amendment right to free speech and promoting a campus community that is open to all points of view,” she said via email Wednesday.

We somehow suspect that if the University was “open to all points of view,” the University of Florida chapter of the Young Americas Foundation would not be suing. They would be in the same “budgeted” category as other campus organizations that host speakers and events.

This is not the Young Americas Foundation’s first First Amendment rodeo.

Following more than a year of hard-fought litigation in the hostile Ninth Circuit, Young America’s Foundation secured victory for free speech against the University of California, Berkeley. Through YAF’s lawsuit and subsequent settlement agreement executed over the weekend, UC Berkeley agreed to the following terms set by Young America’s Foundation:

1) Pay Young America’s Foundation $70,000.

2) Rescind the unconstitutional “high-profile speaker policy.”

3) Rescind the viewpoint-discriminatory security fee policy.

4) Abolish its heckler’s veto—protestors will no longer be able to shut down conservative expression.

This landmark victory for free expression means UC Berkeley can no longer wantonly treat conservative students as second-class members of its community while ignoring the guaranteed protections of the First Amendment.

No longer can UC Berkeley place a 3:00 p.m. curfew on conservative speech. No longer can UC Berkeley ban advertisements for Young America’s Foundation-sponsored campus lectures. And no longer can UC Berkeley relegate conservative speakers to remote or inconvenient lecture halls on campus while giving leftist speakers access to preferred locations.

Further, the policy that allowed Berkeley administrators to charge conservative students $20,000 for security to host Ben Shapiro—an amount three times greater than the fee charged to leftist students to host liberal Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor—is gone. YAF and UC Berkeley agreed to a fee schedule that treats all students equally. Unless students are handling money or serving alcohol at an event, the security fee will be zero.

The problem is that there are people and groups out there who wish to shut down any speaker with whom then disagree. Instead of allowing the speaker and expressing their objections, people want to shut down the “marketplace of ideas” that universities and colleges should support. The “heckler’s veto” is not something that is allowed by the First Amendment which means government and its institutions have to protect the rights of people and free speech.

If Florida is not protecting those rights and effectively infringing upon those rights, they should have to face the consequences.

One Response to “University Of Florida Sued By Conservative Student Group.”

  1. Lee says:

    Many years ago, in the mood 1990’s, I was on the Graduate Student Government when I was at a Big Ten school. It drive me nuts. Basically, or some role was shopping or the money from student activity fees. The majority of the board were hard lefties. (And I was still pretty liberal!) Jewish Grad Student groups had a hard time getting finding because, according to our Fearless Leader, “They can go to the Jewish community and get money. There’s a lot of money available there.” But when an undergraduate group applied for funding to travel to Cuba, it was approved with only one dissenting vote. (Activities were SUPPOSED to benefit Grad Students. So I wasn’t just voting against Cuba for this “arts exchange.”)

    Most schools, it’s the student government who hands out the money, and most of them are idiots. And often, they make up the rules as they go along.