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This Is What Happens When Universities Favor Certain Student Groups over Others

Sarah Kramer
Written by
Beware the Bias Investigators

Courts have ruled time and again that promoting some viewpoints while stifling others is unconstitutional. Yet, it seems California State University San Marcos hasn’t gotten the memo. 




Here’s the scoop: The Students for Life chapter at CSUSM wanted to bring Dr. Mike Adams to campus to speak on the issue of abortion. When the group applied for funding, however, they were told that student activity funding cannot be used to pay an honorarium or speaking fee for an outside speaker.



That was surprising to the pro-life student group, considering that, the Gender Equity Center and the LGBTQA Pride Center, which together receive more than $296,000 in student activity funding, regularly use those funds to bring in outside speakers.

Surely, there was some sort of mistake. The university couldn’t be playing favorites, right?

Wrong. It turns out the Gender Equity Center and the Pride Center receive over 22% of the student activity fee funding. With over 100 student groups on campus, that translates to roughly 2% of the student organizations on campus receiving over 22% of the student activity fee funding.

That just doesn’t add up.

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 on campus. Student groups apply to ASI to receive funding for their various activities and events on campus. 

Here’s where the problem lies: 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.

This unequal treatment is viewpoint discrimination—a blatant violation of the Constitution. Today, ADF filed suit on behalf of Students for Life at California State University San Marcos.

This is not the first case of university officials allowing the unequal allocation of student activity fees. Obviously, CSUSM did not take note when we filed a lawsuit on behalf of Students for Life at Colorado State University for a similar policy.

And they must have also missed the U.S. Supreme Court case Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth, where the court ruled 9-0 that public universities must allocate student fee funding in a viewpoint neutral fashion if they choose to make paying the fee mandatory.

Perhaps now CSUSM will pay a little more attention to the Constitution.


University Officials Cannot Pick and Choose Which Viewpoints to Promote and Which to Stifle


Alliance Defending Freedom is working to protect the First Amendment on public university campuses. And ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom is at the forefront of litigation defending these rights. To stay up to date on this case and other cases like it, sign up for our newsletter.

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Sarah Kramer
Sarah Kramer
Digital Content Specialist
Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.