ATLANTA (CN) — Conservative students sued Kennesaw State University in Georgia, claiming it discriminates against them for their right-wing views.
With 35,000 students and 2,000 staff members, Kennesaw State, with campuses in Kennesaw and Marietta, north of Atlanta, is the third-largest university in Georgia.
Young Americans for Freedom of Kennesaw State University sued the college in federal court Monday, claiming it favors liberal student groups by providing them better access to Registered Student Organization funds and campus resources than conservative groups. They are represented by Lawrenceville-based Travis Barham with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative, Christian nonprofit based in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Kennesaw State has a four-tier ranking system for student groups, classifying them from highest to lowest as chartered, sponsored, affiliated or recognized.
Organizations ranked in the top three classifications have access to Registered Student Organization (RSO) funding. Members of “recognized” groups pay RSO fees, but are denied access to the funds and are subject to security fees for events, according to the complaint.
Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) claims it was not provided funding and had to pay a $320 security fee to host conservative journalist Katie Pavlich to speak on “how media is being used in the current political climate.”
Pavlich wrote the 2012 book, “Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and Its Shameless Cover-Up” and “Assault & Flattery: The Truth About the Left and Their War on Women” (2014).
According to the complaint, the Student Activities Budget Advisory Committee considered Pavlich “controversial” and told YAF it needed to pay for an extra security officer for the event. But YAF claims the committee paid for extra security and took care of the details of the unregistered group that organized a Black Lives Matter protest, which was not considered controversial.
The YAF claims that the university’s classification system is not neutral or objective, but is left to the subjective discretion of the nine-member committee that assigns student organizations to one of the four tiers. It claims that the allocation of RSO fees is unconstitutionally based on viewpoint discrimination.
For instance, the group says an LGBTQ group is chartered, the Kennesaw Pride Alliance, the NAACP and Society for Global Diplomacy are sponsored, and an Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics group is affiliated, but the YAF’s petition to upgrade its rank from recognized was denied, as was its appeal.
The YAF claims the committee uses inherently subjective factors and has no guidelines of how factors are to be weighed in determining groups’ ranking. Chartered groups and their missions are considered critical to the mission and culture of the university. The student advisory committee considers them honor societies, which can limit membership based on students’ GPAs, like performing arts groups, which can limit membership through auditions, yet are still considered “open membership” organizations.
YAF says it limits its membership to preserve the consistency of its message of conservative religious, political and financial viewpoints. It claims that other conservative groups on campus are also subjected to discrimination.
It seeks declaratory judgment that the security fees and classification system constitution unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.
Kennesaw State University did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the YAF’s counsel, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a hate group. It says the alliance seeks to criminalize homosexuality, supports denial of services to LGBT for religious reasons, defends state-sanctioned sterilization of transgender people abroad, and claims that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy Christianity and society.