College administrators have a pretty easy job when it comes to free speech. They are simply there to facilitate a free and open marketplace of ideas while remaining viewpoint neutral on the controversies of the day. Sometimes, the universities opt to facilitate advocacy of ideas through the mechanism of mandatory student activity fees. However, the Supreme Court has stated unequivocally that the university can collect such fees only if they proactively ensure that the funds are allocated in a viewpoint-neutral manner.
In stark violation of their obligations under the First Amendment, California State University-San Marcos (CSU-SM) has decided to use mandatory student activity fees in a way that produces two outcomes: 1) Students at are compelled to subsidize speech with which they disagree. 2) Students are denied the right to use a portion of the fees to promote a contrary point of view.
There is nothing wrong with the first of those two outcomes. However, the second one is illegal. That is why my friends at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) have decided to represent Students for Life in a federal lawsuit, which they filed against CSU-SM just last week.
To date, the greatest injustice uncovered in this case involves the revelation that CSU-SM collects $1,300,000 in mandatory fees every year and skims $800,000 off the top to pay the salaries of its administrators. Thus, it seems that these mandatory student fees are little more than job creation programs for bureaucratic activists who are otherwise unemployable. The problem is compounded by the fact that CSU-SM then illegally distributes the remaining half million dollars that is not going directly into their own pockets (hence the term “bureaucratic activists”).
The crux of the illegal distribution problem is that Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) has been given unbridled discretion to dole out the mandatory fees. Unsurprisingly, ASI has exercised this unbridled discretion to allocate the fees in a discriminatory manner. Specifically, ASI favors the viewpoints of two student community centers, the Gender Equity Center (GEC) and the LGBTQA Pride Center, which are both run by the administration.
The decision of ASI to allocate more than $296,000 per year to those two centers virtually guarantees viewpoint discrimination – given that it constitutes more than half of the money the administrators have not skimmed off the top of the collection racket in order to line their own pockets. In fact, during the 2016-2017 academic year, only $38,629 was allotted for the more than 100 student groups at CSU-SM who paid into the corrupt system. This means that a miniscule 3% of all mandatory fees extracted by the administration actually winds up in the hands of student groups to use for their own advocacy. That is about one-twentieth of what administrators pocket for their salaries.
To focus solely on the fact that these administrators are thieves is to risk obscuring the fact that they are also perverts. This year, the administrators gave money to the GEC to host “the ABC’s of LGBTQ: Queer Women” and the so-called “Pleasure Party.” The voluminous GEC spending on sex makes you wonder why they need a separate LGBQTA Center, which, not to be outdone, hosted “Kink 101.” For those wondering, “Kink 101” was an interactive workshop and discussion of bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism—and fetish-style practices. Talk about tying up your tax dollars!
There is more to the controversy than just the centers. Also at the heart of the controversy is a specific ASI allocation to sponsor an Arts & Lectures Series to bring speakers to campus to advocate for certain viewpoints. In contrast, ASI has denied Students for Life at CSU-SM’s request for speaker funding and have supplied two reasons for doing so: 1) ASI limits all student-run organizations to $500 per semester. 2) The student-run organizations are not allowed to use the fees to pay for speakers.
Under the current system, the only speakers members of Students for Life at CSU-SM hear are those they are required to subsidize, which are hired by administrators in the Gender Equity Center and the LGBTQA Pride Center. It should go without saying that members of the group disagree with the speaker viewpoints, which include advocating for abortion and sexually promiscuous behavior. Yet they are banned from bringing in their own speakers to present a contrary view.
I first learned about all of this last semester when Students for Life at CSU-SM applied for funding and invited me to speak on their campus about the issue of abortion. Unsurprisingly, ASI denied the funding request. That is when I put the students in touch with my old friends (and my former lawyers) at ADF.
As of this writing, ASI continues to provide funding through mandatory fees to the Gender Equity Center and the LGBTQA Pride Center, allowing them to pay to bring numerous speakers to campus, giving voice to their own views on a variety of topics that conflict with those of Students for Life, including abortion and human sexuality.
However, their chokehold on the marketplace of ideas will soon be broken and students at CSU-SM will be granted the right to bring in their own speakers with opposing viewpoints. In other words, CSU-SM has absolutely no chance of winning this lawsuit.
By defending the indefensible, these petty administrators give the impression that they enjoy inflicting pain upon themselves for pleasure.