APODACA: Free Speech On Campus Is A No-Brainer, But My School Missed The Memo

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In the grand scheme of things, $75 may not seem like that big of a deal. I’m not an accounting major, after all, so my student activities fee didn’t particularly stand out as I was enrolling for classes at Cal State San Marcos.

It was only when I realized where my money was going — and not going — that I started to be concerned.

Turns out, the lion’s share of the $2.1 million in student fees Cal State San Marcos brings in every year gets funneled, after hefty administration costs, into one of two places: the Gender Equity Center or the LGBTQA Pride Center.

Together, this pair of favored groups get $300,000 per year in mandatory student fees, while only $5,700 was distributed to the rest of the over 100 remaining clubs on campus. That’s a funding disparity of 52 to 1 for just two groups compared to the other 100-plus groups combined.

And not to get too far into the accounting, but both of these clubs enjoy a permanent office on campus and full use of an annual budget just under $150,000 each, while any other campus club can only access any funds at all by applying to campus administrators for $500 per semester on a case-by-case basis.

To say the least, we’re not on a level playing field. That part’s such a given that I almost missed the fact that my student fees are paying for events like "ABC’s of LGBTQ: Queer Women," "The Pleasure Party," "Gaypril" or even "Kink 101," which promotes sexual bondage and sadomasochism among my classmates.

I not only find those events and the views they put forward deeply immoral, but harmful to those who participate in them. Still, what those clubs and students choose to do on their time is their business. All I can do is seek to persuade and live a life that backs up what I believe in and who I claim to be.

It wouldn’t be as noticeable — and I may not have even thought to take legal action — if this was merely a financially uneven playing field. As long as we all get a chance to speak, I’m confident enough in my convictions to believe I can still win, even at a bit of a disadvantage.

Yet that’s not what happened. In my case, the same school that gives $300,000 of mine and my fellow classmates’ student fees to two sexually charged, highly similar groups denied my group Students for Life’s $500 request that would have covered just a fraction of the cost for a single event.

We’d already lined up the speaker — University of North Carolina-Wilmington professor Mike Adams — for the event, but after our request for funding was denied, we had to cancel it entirely. Professor Adams’ speech, "Abortion and Human Equality: A Scientific and Philosophical Defense of the Pro-Life View," was going to be open to anyone who wanted to come and hear a viewpoint that’s almost never heard at Cal State San Marcos.

To cancel the event meant to nix a real opportunity to start life-changing conversations with our fellow classmates. That’s when it hit me: Money is speech. We couldn’t spend money we had all paid into, while groups that stand for opposing values use our student fees to promote their message.

As a pro-life group, we’re founded on the view that all human life from the point of conception to the point of natural death is sacred and has inherent dignity. It may go without saying, but our view on sexuality — though not tied to any one religious expression — is also radically different from that of the two most powerful clubs on campus.

We’re serious about engaging our fellow classmates in real, thoughtful dialogue about abortion and fetal development. More than just seeking to persuade, we’re also committed to serving those around us who are or may become pregnant, pointing them in the direction of life-saving help at local pregnancy centers and adoption agencies.

A university campus is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, so it doesn’t shock or offend me to see opposing views expressed and lived out. What’s shocking is that the school is leveraging students’ mandatory fees against them by funding only one viewpoint and then denying all others the funds to present an opposing viewpoint. That’s unfair, and it violates the First Amendment.

As Free Speech Week reminds us this week, free speech on campus is a no-brainer. Let’s hope Cal State San Marcos gets woke to that truth sometime soon.

Nathan Apodaca attended Cal State San Marcos, where he served as president of the on-campus Students for Life chapter. The Alliance Defending Freedom Center for Academic Freedom represents him in a federal lawsuit challenging Cal State San Marcos’ discriminatory funding policies.

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