9. Student Fees and Viewpoint Discrimination. College administrators live off of taxes, tuition, and mandatory student fees. Sorry for the redundancy. The mandatory student fee is just another tax. Regrettably, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of these fees in the case of Wisconsin v. Southworth (2000). However, the decision also mandated that these fees be redistributed on a viewpoint neutral basis.
Of course, universities routinely ignore the viewpoint neutrality requirement. In fact, my very first college speech in 2004 involved a violation of Southworth. Administrators at UNC-Greensboro (UNCG) refused to give me an honorarium or even to supply a hotel room for my visit. Their reason was that the wrong group – the College Republicans (CRs) - submitted the request. They claimed that since the CRs were “political” they could not receive funding.
UNCG was actually charging the group mandatory fees and then refusing to give the money back. And they did it more than once. Previously, the CRs requested money for a “morals week.” They were denied funding by the same Office of Student Life that was giving another group thousands of dollars to put on a “gay pride week” featuring drag shows and gay proms for local high school students. When I told the CRs that it was illegal to take their money and give it to other student groups (and even high school students who obviously did not pay the fees!) they were shocked. They had no idea such a thing was illegal. They had not read Southworth.
The solution is simple, isn’t it? First, read the Southworth decision before you join a student group. Know that if you pay mandatory fees, universities cannot deny you funding because your group is “political” or “religious” in nature. That violates the viewpoint neutrality requirement.
In the prep course, I will also talk about how to use public records laws to find out if the various diversity offices are spending money derived from mandatory fees in such a way as to violate Southworth.
10. Speech Codes and Your Right to be Offended.
Some may want to use the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education website (see www.TheFIRE.org) to avoid universities that have speech codes banning so-called offensive speech. Others may wish to go to such a school and challenge its unconstitutional policies. If you find yourself in trouble with a speech code, there are several things you can do to prevail against the university.
First, and most obviously, you can call the folks at FIRE. I did this back in 2001 when I accidentally ran afoul of a speech code embedded within a university computer use manual. After the university came after my emails, FIRE helped me declare public relations nuclear warfare against them. It is often easy as universities are often unable to defend in public the things they do in private. So sometimes all you need to do is fight in the court of public opinion.
Second, you can call the folks at the Alliance Defending Freedom (see www.TellADF.org). I began working together with these guys in the spring of 2006 – just months before they would represent me in a First Amendment retaliation case. I often spoke at campuses with patently unconstitutional policies and tried to challenge those really bad policies by finding really good plaintiffs. We overturned numerous policies by working together. Best of all, many of the students that decided to stand up earned names for themselves and enhanced their resumes – not to mention their standing in the conservative movement.
Finally, you must remember that even at private Christian schools you may have difficulty speaking truth. For example, at one Lutheran college, a student tried to share the Gospel with a fellow student who was openly homosexual. Believe it or not, he was actually called into the Dean’s Office and threatened with expulsion for violating the campus speech code. The Gospel was declared to be offensive speech – and at a Christian university, no less! Actually, let me rephrase that: At a formerly Christian but still Christian in name university, no less!
Unfortunately, after we began to organize a donor boycott aimed at pressuring the school to overturn the speech code, the student graduated and lost interest in fighting back. The final point of my presentation will include more than just an instruction on how to use donations to shape university policy once you graduate. I will also argue that conservative Christians have a moral obligation to stand for truth and to leave the university in better condition than they found it.
Now you’ve heard my ten basic points. Just contact Frank Turek here if you want to bring the Cross Examined College Prep Course to your church this summer or fall.