By Casey Mattox
Here’s the last fifty years First Amendment rights on campus in a nutshell. 50 years ago the left advocated for the First Amendment rights of students (themselves) on campus. They then gained positions of power in the universities and now run the show. So that now when a conservative group stands up for the First Amendment rights of disfavored groups (now generally conservative groups like itself) on its campus, it is the left that dismisses the First Amendment and demands the status quo (the preservation of their own power).
Young Americans for Freedom has a post up responding to the latest example of this at Stony Brook University. Earlier this year the Student Government at Stony Brook University denied student activity funding to Young Americans for Freedom. The funding, generally available to a broad spectrum of other student groups was denied YAF because student government made the subjective determination that it is “too similar” to College Republicans. Of course, this similarity rule was not applied to prevent funding for an array of left wing groups. Additionally, student government required groups seeking funding to submit a petition showing the signatures of approximately 800 students supporting funding for the group, including their phone number, address, and student ID numbers – a policy that favors popular groups and disfavors groups whose views are more controversial on campus (i.e. conservatism, evangelical Christianity, etc.).
These policies clearly violate the First Amendment. Directly applicable decisions of the United States Supreme Court (Southworth) and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals dealing with policies of Stony Brook’s sister-SUNY school (Amidon v. SUNY-Albany) eliminate any doubt about that. Thus, in response to my letter, counsel for Stony Brook and its USG reviewed their policies, determined they were suspect, and quickly corrected them without any need for litigation. Everyone should be happy with this result. The First Amendment is vindicated, YAF gets the same status as other groups, and the parties were even able to work it out without the assistance of the federal judiciary.
“Think Progress,” a left wing magazine at Stony Brook, is not happy with this turn of events. In an article titled: “Club Funding Drops $175,000 Thanks Largely to YAF’s Lawsuit Threat,” the supposedly “progressive” author blames YAF for any reduction in funding to student groups (while burying the lead – that student gov’t increased funding for itself by $250,000 and expects to make up lost club funding in the fall). The author notes that the policy changes were required by the Supreme Court in Southworth, quotes USG members explaining that fact, and then cites USG sources identifying that “viewpoint neutrality as the reason for the budget cuts.” So, to sum up, the USG began complying with the First Amendment due to YAF’s efforts and this has reduced funding for some groups that received more under the previously unconstitutional system. And the left attacks the group defending the First Amendment.
Unfortunately, this is unsurprising. After all, student fee systems were created to increase funding for left wing causes and were serving that purpose well at Stony Brook. And they would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those meddling YAF kids!
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