The Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter at the University of Florida filed a federal lawsuit against the Board of Trustees of University of Florida, citing the individual trustees, the university president, and the vice president of student affairs as defendants.

The YAF chapter, with leaders Sarah Long and Daniel Weldon as additional plaintiffs, sued the university in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on December 21. The student organization has organized campus speakers like Ben Shapiro and Dinesh D’Souza. After requesting additional funds to host to host Dana Loesch and Andrew Klavan, the UF Student Government denied YAF’s request to become a budgeted student organization, and then passed a legislation that prohibits non-budgeted groups from filing funding requests for speaker fees.

The lawsuit, Young Americans for Freedom v. University of Florida, comes after the chapter was denied funding, collected from the university’s mandatory Activity and Service Fee. The suit challenges the Student Government allocation policy, which “allows fees to be distributed using undefined and subjective criteria, and it fails to provide an appeals process if the organization’s request for funding is denied,” according to the Alliance Defending Freedom. Additionally, “even if the student organization meets all published criteria to become budgeted, there is no guarantee or requirement that the group actually receives money because a student body treasurer and president can disqualify the group from funding at their whim,” ADF continues.

The Alliance Defending Freedom is serving as legal counsel for the lawsuit, seeking a declaratory judgment that the University violated YAF’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as an injunction that permanently prohibits the enforcement of the Student Activity Fee policy limiting funding to budgeted organizations.

“YAF has been and will be denied funding for its events because the Student Activity Fee Policy grants Student Government unbridled discretion to allocate funds based upon the viewpoint of the speech,” the lawsuit details.

“The University of Florida has engaged in a pattern of unconstitutional discrimination against the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at UF (UF YAF). From rewriting the rules regarding student group classification, to denying funding for events and prohibiting allocations for going toward speaker honoraria, UF has made it nearly impossible for UF YAF to host conservative speakers. The University of Florida continues to collect mandatory fees from all students, but funds only the viewpoints favored by the powers that be. This disparate treatment, exercised through unbridled discretion and an opaque decision making process, constitutes an ongoing violation of students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights,” says Young America’s Foundation Spokesman Spencer Brown. (The Young Americans for Freedom chapters are a project of the Young America’s Foundation.)

“The First Amendment dictates that the university can collect a mandatory student activity fee only if it proactively ensures that those funds are allocated in a viewpoint-neutral manner, bridling the discretion of those who allocate the funds,” as stated in the lawsuit.

Blake Meadows, ADF Legal Counsel, explains that a “public university needs to be a free marketplace of ideas, where all ideas are welcome and can have an equal voice, specifically in the context of funding.” He says that “a free speech forum needs to be viewpoint neutral, which is the bedrock constitutional principle at play here.”

There are some binding Supreme Court precedent cases that apply to this lawsuit: Southworth v. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, and Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.

You can view the entire lawsuit here. The dates have not yet been set for hearing the case.

Jordan O
CABINET

Jordan Orris is a second year M.S. Integrated Marketing Communications graduate student at Ole Miss. She graduated from Auburn University in marketing and journalism. Originally from Henderson, Nevada, she enjoys SEC Football, reading, and politics.