The Cougar Chronicle

Letter to the Editor: Students for Life clarifies lawsuit against CSUSM

Nathan Apodaca

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Editor’s Note: The Cougar Chronicle reached out to ASI, and ASI respectfully declined response to this letter.

The recent Cougar Chronicle article failed to include three critical facts that tell the true story behind the lawsuit brought by CSUSM Students for Life (SFL) and my challenge to the University’s student activity fee policy.

First, every student pays a mandatory $75 student activity fee per semester, in addition to tuition. In total, we will pay more than $2 million in student activity fees this academic year. One of the primary purposes of the student activity fee is to fund the activities of student organizations. Many of these activities express a specific message or advocate for a certain cause. In essence, through payment of this mandatory fee, every student is forced to subsidize the expression of every student organization on campus—regardless of whether they agree with the message.

Second, Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) (the entity empowered to allocate student activity fees) discriminates in allocating the student activity fees by favoring two student organizations over all others. In 2016-17, ASI allocated almost $300,000 to fund the activities of the Gender Equity Center (GEC) and the LGBTQA Pride Center (Pride Center), which were both created by ASI. In contrast, ASI allocated only $38,629 to fund the activities of the more than 100 other student organizations. You read that right. Two student organizations receive almost 10 times more than the remaining 100 student organizations combined. As if that was not enough, the maximum amount per semester that these student organizations can request is $500. And ASI severely restricts how those funds can be used. For instance, they cannot be used to pay speakers. The GEC and the Pride Center, however, can use their funds without restrictions.

Third, the United States Supreme Court has held that a public university can only charge its students an activity fee if the fee is allocated in a viewpoint neutral manner. The University’s policy violates this principle because it favors certain viewpoints over all others.

Our case asks the court to change this unfair and unconstitutional policy so that all student organizations have equal access to the mandatory fees to fund their expressive activities. In her recent e-mail, President Haynes rightly stated that CSUSM should be a marketplace of ideas. We agree. CSUSM should be a place of true diversity—not an ideological echo chamber. Our lawsuit simply asks CSUSM to put its money (I mean, our money) where its mouth is.

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