Ben Zeisloft, Campus Reform
- The Student Bar Association at Rutgers Law School tried withholding funds from student groups that do not endorse Critical Race Theory, then backtracked in wake of First Amendment challenges.
- In response, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent a letter to administrators urging an appropriation of funds that does not violate civil liberties.
The Student Bar Association at Rutgers Law School’s Camden campus is not giving funds over $250 to student groups that promote critical race theory.
In November, the Rutgers Law Student Bar Association — the “umbrella organization for all other organizations” that governs extracurricular activities — amended its constitution to state that any student group seeking more than $250 in university funds must “plan at least one (1) event that addresses their chosen topics through the lens of Critical Race Theory, diversity and inclusion, or cultural competency.”
Critical race theory posits that American society is irredeemably divided into oppressive and oppressed racial subgroups.
In response to the constitutional amendment, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent a letter to Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway to express their concern.
“Rutgers may not condition student organizations’ funding on their willingness to host events that address or promote a specific ideology, as the First Amendment requires that public universities distribute student activity fee funds in a viewpoint-neutral manner,” reads the letter. “It has long been settled law that the First Amendment is binding on public universities like Rutgers. Accordingly, the decisions and actions of a public university and its student government — including the recognition and funding of student organizations — must be consistent with the First Amendment.”
The letter notes that the constitutional amendment “puts student organizations in the unenviable position of deciding either to falsely affirm their belief in an ideological proposition with which they disagree or on which they simply prefer to remain silent, or to forgo accessing university resources.”
FIRE called on Rutgers to “rescind this unconstitutional condition on student group funding and commit to distributing its student activity fee in a viewpoint-neutral matter.”
“The Rutgers student government is holding student group funding hostage until students commit to a particular ideology,” said FIRE Program Officer Zach Greenberg in a press release. “Students shouldn’t be forced to choose between their club’s funding and their own convictions.”
On May 24, FIRE announced that the Student Bar Association backed down.
“This past week the law school administration brought to our attention a letter from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) which raised First Amendment concerns with the amendment,” read an email to the student body from the president of the school’s Student Bar Association. “We hate the idea of backing down, just because the “other guys” say so, and we hate that we have to factor in those that oppose measures to foster diversity and inclusion, we do.”
“We think — and we hope, we can still create change, still fight for what is right, and pass this amendment, or something similar again,” continued the email obtained by FIRE. “But right now, we know that if we dig our heels in now, this way, we run the risk of never being able to accomplish what we set out to do.”
Campus Reform reached out Rutgers Law School for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.
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