Northern Illinois University: Unequal Treatment of Political and Religious Student Organizations

Category: Free Speech, Religious Liberty
Schools: Northern Illinois University

The Student Association Senate at Northern Illinois University twice denied recognition to the NIU chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) because of the group’s viewpoint, its alleged “political” activities, and failing to show sufficient “respect” for the Senate. Following the first denial of recognition, the Senate made matters much worse by defining “political” and “religious” organizations so as to unconstitutionally jeopardize the funding of many more student organizations. The Student Association also maintains unconstitutional double standards regarding recognition and funding of student organizations, making “political” and “religious” student organizations at NIU second-class groups while giving “social justice” and “diversity” groups full recognition. FIRE wrote to NIU President John G. Peters in November 2010 regarding NIU’s moral and legal obligation to step in when the Student Association violates First Amendment rights. Finally, in April 2011, NIU’s Student Association Senate amended its policies to prohibit viewpoint discrimination in student group funding.

  • NIU Recognizes Students for Sensible Drug Policy

    December 10, 2010

    Today John R. Jones III, associate vice president of Northern Illinois University, informed Jeremy Orbach, president of the school’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, that NIU’s administration is stepping in to recognize SSDP as a “social justice, advocacy, and support organization,” which means it can use campus facilities and is eligible for activity fee funding. The administration is thereby overriding the Student Association Senate, which twice voted against recognizing SSDP based on vague, constitutionally suspect criteria. In a letter (PDF) to Orbach, Jones writes: I have made the determination, under the unique circumstances of this case, to administratively […]

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  • What’s a Group Gotta Do to Post a Flyer Around Here?

    December 8, 2010

    by Jacob Sullum reason.com   On Sunday night, Northern Illinois University’s Student Association Senate denied recognition to the school’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), which means it may not post flyers or meet on campus. The Senate already had denied activity-fee funding to SSDP, declaring it a “political” group, as opposed to a “social justice” or “advocacy” group. Sunday’s meeting was called to address constitutional objections to this decision raised by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which last month wrote a letter to NIU President John G. Peters noting that NIU, as a state-run […]

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  • Victory for Freedom of Speech and Religious Liberty at Northern Illinois U; Political and Religious Organizations Finally Get Equal Treatment

    April 28, 2011

    After months of delay and pressure from FIRE, Northern Illinois University (NIU) has finally given political and religious organizations access to student activity fee funding. In 2010, NIU’s Student Association brazenly flouted Supreme Court precedent by discriminating against all such groups, maintaining extensive double standards, and denying recognition altogether to NIU Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) on two separate occasions. SSDP was first considered for recognition on October 24, 2010, as a “Social Justice, Advocacy, and Support” group because it advocates “that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society” and seeks “to reduce the harms […]

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  • Victory for Freedom of Speech and Religious Liberty at Northern Illinois U; Political and Religious Organizations Finally Get Equal Treatment

    April 28, 2011

    DEKALB, Ill., April 28, 2011—After months of delay, Northern Illinois University (NIU) has finally given political and religious organizations access to student activity fee funding. In 2010, NIU’s Student Association brazenly flouted Supreme Court precedent by discriminating against all such groups, maintaining extensive double standards, and denying recognition to NIU Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) on two separate occasions. SSDP came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “FIRE commends Northern Illinois University for finally removing all justifications for viewpoint discrimination from its funding policy,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “It is now up to […]

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  • Under Pressure from FIRE, Northern Illinois U. Finally Recognizes ‘Students for Sensible Drug Policy,’ But Double Standards and Other First Amendment Violations Persist

    December 10, 2010

    Today’s press release announces that Northern Illinois University (NIU) has finally given full recognition to NIU Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) after the Student Association Senate twice denied the group any recognition, which had prevented SSDP from meeting or posting flyers on campus. But Senate policy still denies funding to all “political” and “religious” student organizations. This arbitrary standard classifies Christian, Muslim, and Jewish organizations as “religious” and therefore ineligible for funding, while the campus Baha’i Club is funded as a “cultural” group. Similarly, groups such as Model United Nations are considered “political” while many “social justice” or “advocacy” […]

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  • Take Action: Tell NIU to Meet Its First Amendment Obligations

    December 6, 2010

    Do you have something to say about the many violations of the First Amendment over at Northern Illinois University (NIU), as exposed in today’s press release? Use our Take Action page to give NIU President John G. Peters your opinion. We have offered some suggested language for you to consider. Here’s a letter from Kenyon College Professor Fred Baumann that you might choose to adapt for yourself. We liked it so much, we got his permission to share it with you: Dear President Peters: I see that your student Senate has some very strange rules about what student organizations can […]

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  • Northern Illinois U. Kicks ‘Students for Sensible Drug Policy’ off Campus for Its Views; Campus Policy Attempts to Overrule 5 out of 5 Rights in the First Amendment

    December 6, 2010

    DEKALB, Ill., Dec. 6, 2010—Last night, the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Student Association Senate denied recognition for the second time to NIU Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). As a result, SSDP may not meet on campus, post flyers, or reapply for recognition for two years. The Senate also denies funding to all “political” and “religious” student organizations, including the Model United Nations, which it labels a “political” group. Meanwhile, groups dubbed “social justice” or “advocacy” groups—including student pro-life, pro-choice, antiwar, women’s rights, and victims’ rights groups—are eligible for funding. SSDP came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education […]

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  • Greg Lukianoff on ‘The Vicki McKenna Show’

    December 6, 2010

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will appear this afternoon on The Vicki McKenna Show to discuss FIRE’s case at Northern Illinois University at 4:35 PM ET. Tune in to hear Greg on WISN in Milwaukee and WIBA in Madison. You also can listen live online.

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