College’s ‘neutral’ policy stiffs libertarian students, funds their opponents

Robby Soave Reporter
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More troubling details have emerged in the case of a libertarian student club’s lawsuit against against the University of Michigan: Not only did UM administrators refuse to give the group funding for an anti-affirmative action event, but they also gave liberal students funding for a pro-affirmative action event just days before.

UM collects mandatory fees from students in order to distribute money to student groups for events and speaker fees–about $300,000 each year. However, administrators claim to have a blanket policy against using the money for political or religious events. On this basis, they denied the Young Americans for Liberty its request for $1,000 to cover the cost of bringing anti-affirmative action activist Jennifer Gratz to campus.

The Daily Caller previously reported on YAL’s lawsuit, which claims that the university provided funds to other political and even religious groups as recently as 2010. (RELATED: Libertarian student group sues UMich for political discrimination)

But an omitted detail has come to light: The university actually funded a group in direct ideological opposition to YAL’s Gratz event.

Gratz’s visit to UM came just a week after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, a case that will decide whether the citizens of the state of Michigan have the right to prohibit universities from basing admissions decisions on applicants’ skin color.

The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) is a registered student group at UM, and was given access to the student fees fund by a university commission, according to YAL’s lawsuit. Mandatory student fees helped cover BAMN members’ travel costs to go to Washington, D.C. and protest in front of the Supreme Court just days before the Gratz event.

The direct comparability of the cases suggests UM considers demonstrating in favor of affirmative action before the Supreme Court to be non-political activity. On the other hand, bringing an anti-affirmative action expert to campus to talk about the issue is political. The university said it is reviewing the students’ lawsuit and declined to comment.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote that UM’s policy is unconstitutional in the first place, since the Supreme Court has held that universities may not discriminate against political and religious groups in its funding choices. But the double standard makes the case even more egregious.

“If these facts prove to be true, then will UM have an extremely hard time arguing that it has not engaged in clearly unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination,” wrote FIRE. “Having not only funded political and religious groups generally but also only a week earlier funded a political rally by a group espousing the opposite viewpoint, UM would have a hard time claiming that its decisions were based on anything other than disapproval of YAL’s message. This is an unacceptable outcome, both morally and legally, and the UM administration and student government ought to know that.”