News and Commentary

ADAMS: Student Funds No Longer Tied Up By Cal State Administrators
Microphone in focus against blurred protesters
Mihajlo Maricic/EyeEm/Getty Images

As I have said many times before, college administrators have an easy job when it comes to freedom of speech. They are simply there to facilitate a free and open marketplace of ideas while remaining viewpoint neutral on major controversies of the day, which includes the issue of abortion. Regrettably, universities opt to facilitate advocacy of ideas through the mechanism of mandatory student activity fees, which wildly increase the size of the university bureaucracy. Fortunately, 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.

Back in 2017, California State University-San Marcos (CSU-SM) decided to use mandatory student activity fees in a way that produces patently unconstitutional outcomes: Students were compelled to subsidize speech with which they disagree but then denied the right to use a portion of the fees to promote a contrary viewpoint.

There is nothing wrong (legally) with forcing students to subsidize speech with which they disagree. But it is illegal to deny them access to funds sought for the purpose of presenting a contrary point of view. Fortunately, my friends at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) decided to represent Students for Life in a federal lawsuit, which they filed against CSU-SM over two years ago.

Perhaps 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 fees are little more than job creation programs for bureaucratic activists who are probably 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 arose when Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) was given unbridled discretion to dole out the mandatory fees. Unsurprisingly, ASI then exercised this unbridled discretion to allocate the fees in a discriminatory manner. Specifically, ASI has favored the viewpoints of two student community centers, the Gender Equity Center (GEC) and the LGBTQA Pride Center — both run by the administration.

The decision of ASI to allocate more than $296,000 per year to those two centers virtually guaranteed viewpoint discrimination — given that this amount constitutes more than half of the money the administrators have not been skimming 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 this corrupt system. This means that a miniscule 3% of all mandatory fees extracted by the administration typically 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 CSU-SM administrators are thieves is to risk obscuring that they appear to also be perverts. In 2017, 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. Organizing such events is hard work. It keeps CSU-SM administrators tied up on many evenings.

But 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.

This is information that I know well because I was the speaker that Students For Life tried to bring to CSU-SM. I don’t mind when funding is denied for one of my speeches. But if it is done for illegal reasons you can bank on a lawsuit. (I’m a community disorganizer. That’s how I roll).

The ADF lawsuit certainly alleged illegal reasons. Indeed, 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.

Indeed, ASI has had a long history (or is it her-story?) of discrimination. For several years, they provided 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.

In 2017, when the suit was filed, I predicted that their chokehold on the marketplace of ideas would soon be broken and that students at CSU-SM will eventually be granted the right to bring in their own speakers with opposing viewpoints. I stated unequivocally that CSU-SM had absolutely no chance of winning this lawsuit. And, now, my prediction has come true. A federal district court has ruled in favor of Nathan Apodaca, the brave Army veteran who served as the principal plaintiff for Students For Life.

CSU-SM never had a chance of winning. By defending the indefensible, these petty administrators gave the impression that they enjoyed inflicting pain upon themselves for pleasure.

It’s not as if I didn’t warn them.

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