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Student Fees Gone Wild

Posted on February 25th, 2013 Culture,Freedom of Speech | No Comments »

Last fall, I wrote about Non-Discrimination Gone Wild, a decision by Evergreen State College to allow a man to use the girls locker room.  Well it seems my law school alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis, wanted to one-up Evergreen, and hosted a “porn star” panel earlier this month.  The panel was part of the university’s “sex week,” a series of events designed to address “sexual health, sexuality, and societal views of sex.”  The event was hosted in the university chapel and paid for with mandatory student fees.

Wash U’s event follows similar week-long Dionysian festivals at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, and Yale.  Often these events are paid for with mandatory student fees.  In fact, CampusReform reports that at Wash U over $10,000 in student fees paid for “sex week.”  You would think that university administrators would question student decisions to spend their parents’ money or student loans on these events, but CampusReform quotes one university official as saying, “The administration is very supportive of any choice the students make when it comes to funding.”  Yet, I’m sure if the event had been “religion week,” the university would have refused to provide any student fee funding.

Most people think student fees pay things like services in the student union, the gym, and occasional funding of student groups conducting a service project.  But universities have turned these mandatory fees in campus slush funds for the left.  What results is student groups like “Sex Out Loud” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that receive over $100,000 a year in student fee funding to hand out condoms and pamphlets from Planned Parenthood, but groups like Badger Catholic are denied funding to provide free student counseling from a religious perspective.

What can you do?  It’s unlikely mandatory student fees will go away anytime soon.  But the best answer to bad speech is good speech.  If you’re part of a student group on campus, apply to get student fees for your own events that promote decency and respect life.  (And if you need help, contact us.)  If you’re an alumnus of a college that hands out student fees to these types of events, tell your alumni office you’re not giving this year in protest.  Don’t let the left dominate the conversation.


ADF Senior Legal Counsel - University Project

Friday 2/22 Link Roundup

Posted on February 22nd, 2013 Culture | No Comments »

George Washington on religious liberty.

Texas Aggie Conservatives (our clients) hand in petition demanding college to even out its left leaning slant.

How to choose a college.

From radical lesbian to redeemed Christian — Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s story.

College students lead 2nd graders to the trendy instead of the enduring in classroom discussion ofThe Giving Tree.

Andrew Cuomo’s radical abortion machine.


Illegal discrimination against Christians on public university campuses is pervasive and must be confronted. The Constitution has something to say about this—and so should you. Speak Up

The Right to Offend

Sometimes offending someone is the best way to communicate with them. As I wrote several weeks ago, being “nice” often means not saying what you really mean. And that’s a problem in a country with a government that is of, for, and by the people. How can we govern ourselves if we aren’t free to say what we really think, even when others don’t like it?

Just to reiterate, I’m not talking about being polite, considerate, and thoughtful. Sometimes the point you are making is something others don’t want to hear, and they will still be offended no matter how polite you are.

For example, an African-American man in Philadelphia recently spoke out against the tragedy of black on black violence. He chose to make  his point by standing on a street corner, and holding a sign observing the Ku Klux Klan killed 3,446 Blacks over an 86 year period, but in just the year of 2011 alone, over 7,000 black folks were killed by other blacks. Using the Klan to make his point is offensive enough, but Mr. King took the additional step of actually donning a Klansman hood and robe to really get people’s attention.

There’s no indication that Mr. King was ever impolite or disrespectful, but people were clearly offended. One City Councilman, Curtis Jones, Jr. said the use of Klan imagery made him angry. But he also said he couldn’t ignore Mr. King’s message and supports him anyway. In other words, Mr. King’s speech strategy appears to be working – even though it is offensive.

Back in 1949 in the Terminiello case, the Supreme Court explained why speech like Mr. King’s is so important, and guarded so closely by our Constitution:

The right to speak freely and to promote diversity of ideas and programs is therefore one of the chief distinctions that sets us apart from totalitarian regimes. Accordingly a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.

And as I indicated in my previous post, we need to be teaching our students about this important aspect of freedom of expression. But the requests for help we at Alliance Defending Freedom receive from students every week indicate that schools and universities are doing just the opposite. They not only teach kids that it’s always wrong to say something to which a classmate might take offense, but they actually punish students when they have the temerity to do so. In fact, we are working on a case now where a school bans any speech it deems “offensive.”

Mr. King’s teachers and school administrators must not have fallen into this trap. He is to be commended for speaking up even though some were offended and even stirred to anger. And I congratulate Councilman Jones for supporting him, even though he was one of those that took offense. Hopefully, our students are watching these men, and learning an important civics lesson from them. Our future depends on protecting offensive speech.

The Universities of the Future: 50% Closed Down and Harvard with Ten Million Students?

Posted on February 19th, 2013 Colleges and Universities | 1 Comment »

Major changes may radically transform how people get higher education, and that may have significant changes on the unconstitutional policies many state universities impose to regulate and suppress unpopular student speech on campus. One author, Nathan Harden, recently predicted  what these possible changes would look like:

In fifty years, if not much sooner, half of the roughly 4,500 colleges and universities now operating in the United States will have ceased to exist. The technology driving this change is already at work, and nothing can stop it. The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; and ten years from now Harvard will enroll ten million students.

   Harden predicts these factors will drive the changes – huge, unsustainable student debt, the rise of MOOCs (massive open online courses), as well as a growing sense that many of the majors for bachelor’s degrees do not help students significantly in finding work.  Right now, individual student debt is at an all time high, Harden said, at $23,000. For students completing graduate schools, like law school, the debt load can be far higher.  This means that more and more students are questioning the wisdom and value of going deeply into debt in order to earn a bachelor’s degree that does not substantial increase one’s opportunity to get a job. Universities are confronting price resistance, making them think twice about raising tuition because students are less likely to borrow money to pay the increased costs.

Also, more and more universities are putting their courses online, for free.  Universities are finding that some of the courses are very popular.  Students could take Harvard courses without ever stepping on campus at Cambridge.  But could students earn degrees this way, with no direct personal interaction with their professors? Is this the future of the university? We will see the answers to these questions worked out in the near future.

What this points to is that market forces, that is, the growing reluctance of students to pay increasing costs, will force change at universities, or many will not survive. Students could possibly use this market clout to pressure universities to abandon their unconstitutional speech codes, speech zones, mandatory student fees, etc.  Those are the fruit of liberal ideologues controlling higher education. They have been able to assume for years that students would submit to the restrictions on their freedoms without question, and dutifully continue to pay the increased costs.  That willingness by students is beginning to vanish as they ask why they should go into debt to be subjected to such unconstitutional policies. Students need to flex their financial muscles.  At least some universities will modify or abandon these policies if it is the difference between continuing the university, or laying off professors, or even closing their doors.


ADF Senior Vice President; Senior Counsel - University Project

Bad Grades on Trial

Posted on February 15th, 2013 Colleges and Universities | No Comments »

We get a number of calls from students asking if we can do anything to help change a bad grade.  Generally speaking, getting a lawyer will not improve your chances of changing that “D” into a “C,” unless you have been forced to advocate ideas outside the classroom that you disagree with, or when your professor writes, “Ask God what your grade is.”  That’s why I read this article with surprise.  A student at Lehigh University is suing over a “C+” she received in a counseling program.  But testimony revealed that her grade suffered because she failed to participate in classroom discussion.  

I am not aware of a case in which a court changed a student’s grade (if you can find one, please send it along).  In fact, I’ve read many cases that say universities alone, not even professors, have the final say on grades.  One court said:

[I]t is the [u]niversity’s name, not [the professor]‘s, that appears on the diploma; the [u]niversity, not [the professor], certifies to employers and graduate schools a student’s successful completion of a course of study. Universities are entitled to assure themselves that their evaluation systems have been followed; otherwise their credentials are meaningless. 

Wozniak v. Conry, 236 F.3d 888, 891 (7th Cir. 2001).  If a university or professor retaliates against your constitutionally protected speech by assigning you a bad grade or expelling you from a class, then you might have a claim (and you should contact us).  But on the whole, if you get a bad grade, and it’s not in retaliation for your speech, race, sex, or other protected status, then you cannot ask a judge to change it.


ADF Senior Legal Counsel - University Project

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