Colorado State University in Fort Collins flagrantly violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection and due process provisions, as well as the 1st Amendment’s freedom of speech and ban on viewpoint discrimination, by banning the use of student fees for speakers on topics the university doesn’t like, according to a new federal lawsuit.
The U.S. District Court case was brought by Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of the school’s Students for Life chapter and student Emily Faulkner after the school said the organization couldn’t use student fees for a pro-life speaker because some people wouldn’t “necessarily feel affirmed in attending the event.”
Speakers who advocated for abortion and other speakers with other objectionable perspectives, meanwhile, had been funded by the school, the complaint explains.
While CSU officials declined to respond to a WND request for comment, connecting a WND reporter to a dead telephone line when a request was submitted, Students for Life’s national leaders explained the problem.
“University officials denied the group access to funds from mandatory student activity fees on the basis that they disapproved of its proposed campus event, which featured a speaker on the topic of abortion and bodily rights,” the group said.
“In another example of bias against the pro-life position, CSU felt they had the right to deny the Students for Life group funding just because the speaker was presenting arguments from a position they didn’t agree with,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America (SFLA). “CSU played favorites while stifling free speech, a typical response of abortion advocates who prefer to silence opposition rather than have a free exchange of ideas.”
The campus group said in an email denying the funding that CSU officials wrote that the students’ chosen speaker did not “appear entirely unbiased” and that “folks … won’t necessarily feel affirmed attending the event.”
However, such a requirement has not been imposed on other student groups, the complaint explained.
“Universities should encourage all students to participate in the free exchange of ideas, not play favorites with some while shutting out others,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer. “Colorado State University funded the advocacy of its preferred student organizations but has excluded Students for Life from consideration based purely upon the viewpoint expressed in its funding request to bring a speaker to campus. Because of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, courts have repeatedly rejected this discriminatory treatment as unconstitutional.”
The student organization requested funding for a speaker from the school’s “Diversity Grant” program, which were to be used for a speaker from the Equal Rights Institute on the topic of abortion and bodily rights.
The grants are intended to “raise the awareness of differing perspectives” and are funded by mandatory student fees.
The lawsuit contends the “decision of university officials to deny the grant violated Students for Life’s constitutionally protected free speech by denying it equal access to student-fee funding solely on the basis of the proposed speaker’s viewpoint.”
ADF said it already has fought the same battle at Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M, and has won each time.
Defendants, besides various managers at the school, include members of the board of governors: William Mosher, Scott Johnson, Nancy Tuor, D. Rico Munn, Mark A. Gustafson, Jane Robbe Rhodes, Ennis Flores, Joseph Zimlich and Dean Singleton.
They are responsible for policies that “govern the creation of forums for student speech, including the Diversity Grant Policy, and policies that govern collection and allocation of mandatory student fees at the university.”
The dollar amount allegedly being manipulated by the school officials is no small amount: The lawsuit said for the 2016-2017 school year the school “collected more than $55 million.”
“The [Diversity Grant Committee] defendants denied Students for Life at CSU’s request for funding because they did not want to fund the viewpoint Students for Life seeks to express,” it said.