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Supreme Court of the United States

California State University-San Marcos Turned Down the Wrong Speaker

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
August 6, 2018

When California State University-San Marcos (CSUSM) denied a funding request from Students for Life president Nathan Apodaca, he was understandably upset. Though probably not for the reasons you’d expect.

Yes, he was disappointed that he would not receive the funding to bring in a pro-life speaker, especially since his group was hoping to offer a different perspective than some of the pro-abortion speakers the university had hosted in the past. But Nathan was even more upset about the glaring double standard that this exposed.

You see, all students pay a mandatory Student Activity Fee when they attend CSUSM. Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) then allocates these funds to the student organizations for activities and events. 

Students for Life cannot receive more than $500 in funding per semester and cannot use that funding for speakers. But Nathan knew that this was not the case for a handful of favored student groups on campus. For example, the Gender Equity Center and the LGBTQA Pride Center receive more than $296,000 in student activity funding combined and regularly use those funds to bring in outside speakers and host events such as “Kink 101”—a workshop and discussion of bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism.

Not only that, but it turns out the Gender Equity Center and the Pride Center receive over 22 percent of the student activity fee funding. With over 100 student groups on campus, that translates to roughly 2 percent of the student organizations on campus receiving over 22 percent of the student activity fee funding. That just didn’t add up.




The root of the problem is that ASI does not have any guidelines or criteria to abide by when determining how to distribute these funds. So, certain student groups can easily be favored over others, as Nathan and Students for Life discovered.



This unequal treatment is viewpoint discrimination—a blatant violation of the Constitution.

When Nathan called to tell the speaker that his funding request had been denied, though, the speaker knew exactly what to do.

Why? Because that speaker was Dr. Mike Adams, a former Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) client—a client that is very familiar with what it’s like to have certain viewpoints favored over your own.

Mike was an atheist and liberal when he started teaching at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington (UNCW). But in 1996, he took part in a teaching exchange in Ecuador where an encounter with death-row inmates had a life-changing spiritual effect on him. After a few years of studying and asking questions, Mike became a Christian—which also affected his political views. In his free time, Mike began writing online columns that addressed cultural and political issues from a conservative perspective and that critiqued high education.

Not everyone took Mike’s change of heart well.

When he applied for a promotion to full professor in 2006, he was denied – even though he had a record of excellent teaching and community service. ADF filed a lawsuit on his behalf, and a federal jury ruled that UNCW violated Mike’s First Amendment rights. As Mike said after his victory, “it shows that a conservative can stand up and fight—with ADF—and that there is a chance. David can face Goliath and prevail.”

So when Nathan told him about the viewpoint discrimination that was going on at CSUSM, Mike pointed him to ADF for help. Last year, the ADF Center for Academic Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of Nathan and Students for Life.

As Mike knows—and as many courts have ruled—it is unconstitutional to treat some viewpoints worse than others. The University of North Carolina-Wilmington learned its lesson. It’s time Cal State-San Marcos did as well.

Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.