College to Pay Students for Violating Their Free Speech Rights

The University of Florida agreed this week to pay a conservative student group $66,000 and amend school policy to allow conservative groups to have access to more financial resources.

The Young Americans for Freedom chapter at University of Florida filed a lawsuit against the school in December, alleging it violated students’ First and 14th Amendment rights.

The lawsuit stemmed from the university’s designating the chapter as a “nonbudgeted” organization, meaning it would be forced to petition the school for funding for each event it seeks to host.

In addition, the policy disqualified the chapter from being able to use student activity fees to go toward a speaker’s attendance fee.

“[The University of Florida] realized when YAF was taking them to court [they] weren’t going to win,” Young Americans for Freedom spokesman Spencer Brown told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It was very smart for them to recognize their policy was flawed the way it was set up, and that the conservative students in the YAF chapter were getting the rough end of the deal by being labeled a nonbudget student organization.”

Brown added, “We had the emails and facts on our side; we had the Constitution on our side. It just wasn’t worth it for them to try to prove they were doing it for some other reason. There is never any reason for violating the Constitution.”

According to the YAF spokesperson, Young Americans for Freedom and other conservative student chapters all across the country feel emboldened to challenge campus administrations over free speech issues after President Donald Trump signed an executive order in March, which connected college funding to policies that protect free speech.

“This settlement is a great victory for all students at the University of Florida,” former University of Florida YAF Chairwoman Sarah Long told The New Guard.

“The University of Florida should be a marketplace of ideas where students can decide for themselves which ideas have merit,” Long said. “Moving forward, our chapter is excited to host leading conservative speakers on campus.”

Blake Meadows, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, told The New Guard:

University of Florida administrators are limiting YAF members’ First Amendment freedoms by forcing them to pay into a system that funds opposing viewpoints. Worse yet, the university forces YAF to play an arbitrary, complex game of Chutes and Ladders in the funding process, wherein the student group can continually be sent back to the beginning of the game at the sole discretion of the student government.

The university also changed its rules to single out and disqualify the conservative group from receiving funding for speakers fees and honoraria—making it even more difficult for the group to express its viewpoint on campus.

Young Americans for Freedom has hosted its 41st National Conservative Student Conference the past few days. Chapters from campuses all across the country came to listen to conservative speakers ranging from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to Vice President Mike Pence.

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