Conservative Students Sue Over Funding of ‘Liberal’ Groups

SAN DIEGO (CN) – Students from a college anti-abortion club claim a California university favors LGBT students, dedicating nearly a fourth of student-raised funds to “liberal” groups and speakers.

Nathan Apodaca, president of the Students for Life chapter at California State University, San Marcos – a state college about 35 miles northeast of San Diego – says the school unfairly divvies up student-raised money from the annual $75 student-activity fee all students are required to pay.

The fee funds student activities such as cultural and educational programs, recreational activities, student scholarships, athletics programs and other activities for CSU San Marcos students.

But Apodaca claims in his 40-page federal complaint filed May 17 the university policy for allocating the student-activity fee “grants university administrators unbridled discretion to discriminate in the allocation of their mandatory student-activity fees based on the viewpoints of student speech.”

More than half of the money raised by the fee for the 2016-17 school year that went toward “student advocacy” – $300,000 – ended up in the hands of the Gender Equity Center and LGBTQIA Pride Center, according to the lawsuit.

Only $38,000 of the total $1.3 million raised by the mandatory fee went to fund free-speech activities of more than 100 student organizations on campus during the same academic year – including Students for Life, Apodaca claims.

While Apodaca says he’s had to pay fees for student activities and speeches on which he doesn’t agree – including a “pro-abortion” lecture by a women’s studies professor titled “A Feminist History of Reproductive Rights” – his group has not been able to host their own lecturers to counter the “liberal” narrative on campus, he says.

The university denied Student for Life’s request to invite a professor to speak about abortion through a presentation titled “Abortion and Human Equality: A Scientific and Philosophical Defense of the Pro-Life View.” The school told the group it would not approve the $500 requested grant to help bring the speaker to campus because the student-activity fee cannot be used for speakers, according to the lawsuit.

There is no appeals process in place if a student group’s request for funding is denied, the lawsuit claims.

Apodaca says that rule is not applied equally since the university allowed students at the Gender Equality Center to hold a “Pleasure Party,” which was advertised “to come and learn more about how to increase your pleasure whether it’s for yourself, for your partner, or both.” The Pride Center also hosted a professional sexologist for a “Kink 101” presentation which discussed bondage, domination and sadomasochism, Apodaca said.

The school also allocates fee money to an “Arts and Lectures Series” which hosted lecturers on prejudice and social-justice issues, according to the lawsuit.

“California State University San Marcos unconstitutionally compels Mr. Apodaca and the other student members of plaintiff Students for Life at CSU-SM to subsidize speech that they disagree with,” the lawsuit says. “Mr. Apodaca disagrees with their viewpoints which include advocating for abortion and sexually promiscuous behavior.”

The lopsided policy, Apodaca claims, amounts to discrimination by the university against the viewpoints of Students for Life and the speakers they want to bring to campus.

The group joins a growing chorus of conservative college students and groups who say their free-speech rights have been hampered by campuses unfriendly or hostile to their points of view. One noteworthy example: protests broke out at the University of California, Berkeley, earlier this year over the school’s decision to host controversial conservative media personality Milo Yiannopoulos as a speaker. Cal ultimately decided to cancel the event.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Tyson Langhofer represents Apodaca and Students for Life.

He said Cal State San Marcos needs to give all groups the same access to money raised by student fees, to encourage the “marketplace of ideas universities are supposed to be.”

Students for Life wants a declaration that the school’s denial of funding to bring their speaker to campus violates their free-speech rights. They also seek monetary damages.

The group wants to again apply for grants for the Fall 2017 semester to bring the speaker and Life Training Institute president Scott Klusendorf to campus, according to the lawsuit.

Cal State San Marcos issued a statement saying, “Cal State San Marcos is committed to fostering a campus environment where diverse ideas and views can be presented and discussed.  In addition, we take student complaints and concerns very seriously.”

Numerous university officials are named as defendants, including the school’s president Karen Haynes and its board of trustees.

 

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