BLOGColorado State Prefers “Feeling Affirmed” Over Free Speech Rights

By Jana Minich Posted on: | January 17, 2017

When students are required to fund a university “diversity grant,” which is expressly designed to promote “awareness of differing perspectives,” it seems reasonable to expect to see an evenhanded and, well—diverse—use of grant funds.

But at Colorado State University (CSU), diversity apparently only stretches so far. That is, it only covers viewpoints approved by the administration.

CSU’s Diversity Grant Committee decides how to distribute funds to various groups that apply for funding. This grant is funded, at least in part, by the mandatory student fee that every CSU student pays, regardless of whether they agree with the organizations that actually receive funding. Students can be forced to pay these fees – over $800 per semester – to fund views that they don’t agree with, but only if the funds are distributed in a viewpoint neutral manner.

Despite having funded past events featuring controversial perspectives, the Diversity Grant Committee turned down the Students for Life grant funding application. Refusing to fund their pro-life speaker, the committee reasoned that the speaker might not be “unbiased,” or might fail to make everyone “feel affirmed.”

So much for a diversity of perspectives. And with no appeals process for those denied Diversity Grant Funding, the Students for Life have no administrative recourse for asserting their basic First Amendment rights.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of Students for Life and its student leader who has personally paid thousands of dollars in student fees, arguing what should be intuitive: pro-life organizations have the same free speech rights that other campus organizations have.

“Universities should encourage all students to participate in the free exchange of ideas, not play favorites with some while shutting out others,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer. “Colorado State University funded the advocacy of its preferred student organizations but has excluded Students for Life from consideration based purely upon the viewpoint expressed in its funding request to bring a speaker to campus. Because of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, courts have repeatedly rejected this discriminatory treatment as unconstitutional.”


University Officials Cannot Decide Which Viewpoints Are Acceptable and Which Are Not

School administrators are not responsible for making students feel “affirmed.” On the contrary, they should be working to ensure that students are exposed to a true diversity of thought on campus.

But this is not the first time free speech has been silenced on campus. We’ve seen many other examples, including at California State University – Los Angeles, University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire, Grand Valley State University, and Iowa State University.

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Jana Minich

Contributing Writer

Jana is a senior Political Science student at Cedarville University and legal intern at Alliance Defending Freedom.

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