(Oct. 4, 2022) Santa Rosa, CA: Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) sent a letter to Santa Rosa Junior College urging it to revise its student organization grant application. Student organizations who want to request funding for their events must submit the application to the student-led Inter-Club Council for review. As part of its review, the Council considers how the event “benefits students.” But as SLF explains, this sort of review is unconstitutional.
SLF writes to the College that under the First Amendment, college officials cannot deny funding requests simply because they dislike or disagree with the views a student organization wants to express. The same is true for student leaders acting in an official capacity, like the Inter-Club Council. When the Inter-Club Council asks how an event will benefit students, it gives itself the authority to reject any events it does not think will benefit students. This amounts to unconstitutional viewpoint and content discrimination.
SLF General Counsel Kimberly Hermann warns, “It is a form of viewpoint and content discrimination to review events in advance, then approve or deny them based on their perceived value. No officials—whether administrators or students—should have that much power to control what students say. The Constitution doesn’t allow it.”
“Conservative and libertarian students risk being discriminated against for their views,” explains Director of SLF’s 1A Project Cece O’Leary. “If they need funding to host a discussion on a controversial topic, the Inter-Club Council can deny it simply by concluding that those controversial views do not benefit students and are therefore not welcome on campus. For this reason, we are demanding that the College revise its grant application to ensure neutrality in the funding process.”
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