FIRE to UC Santa Barbara: Stop Student Government’s Viewpoint Discrimination

By June 8, 2011

Yesterday FIRE sent a second letter to University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Chancellor Henry T. Yang to help him understand the grave danger to First Amendment rights posed by the UCSB student government’s explicit viewpoint discrimination against the UCSB College Republicans and conservative writer and activist David Horowitz.

As the minutes of last month’s Associated Students Legislative Council (LC) meeting show, at least five of the eight LC members who voted to reject funding for an event featuring Horowitz did so after making clear that they were against the funding because of Horowitz’s conservative viewpoints. (Fourteen LC members voted in favor of the $1,100 allocation.)

To make a long story short, the LC voted by general consent to allocate $1,100 for security for the event. The audience then erupted with shouts including "You are sponsoring Islamophobia and racism on this campus," and "Who on this board is representing the Muslim community?" The LC reopened the debate, voted down the $1,100, and ultimately voted to allocate only $800 for security.

This discussion came after a previous decision by the Associated Students Finance Board to allocate zero dollars for the event. At the end of the meeting, the LC even voted to hide the unconstitutional reasoning behind the Finance Board’s rejection of funds from the public record, as the LC minutes show:

MOTION by Jason Lopez to strike discussion about the allocation on College Republicans from the Finance Board minutes. SECOND by Danielle Mayorga. MOTION CARRIED BY CONSENT.

MOTION by Tiffany Mayville to approve the Finance Board minutes as amended. SECOND by Jason Lopez. MOTION CARRIED BY CONSENT. [Emphases in original.]

Here are some of the quotes from the five LC members who voted down the $1,100:

  • Alfredo Del Cid: "Diversity, speech, and ideas I appreciate and like the different angles, and when speakers with different views come I think it’s constructive, but I believe the statements should be founded in fact and there’s a difference between that and completely outlandish statements. Referencing David Horowitz’s article on how the gay AIDS epidemic stems from the gay pride movement. If there were intelligent discourse with David, then great, but this is not the case. He will go on a rant about people that he doesn’t agree with or like." [Emphasis added.]
  • Fabian Gallardo: "My only reservation with bringing Horowitz is that it would be an educational event. David belittles students and professors and will only anger folks."
  • Tiffany Mayville asked the College Republicans representative: "Do you think the idea of free speech jeopardizes the safety of students on the campus?" She later asked: "Couldn’t you have chosen someone who better represents your minority group in a constructive manner?" Mayville also stated: "Being a political[] minority is WAY different than a structural minority. I want people to represent their beliefs and we shouldn’t have to have security to protect the event…. The threat of being sued is very disempowering and it feels like we’re being told how to vote because of legalities. We have the duty to represent students and not the Regents."
  • Jared (surname unavailable), voting as proxy for LC member Danielle Stevens: "I didn’t hear concrete evidence on anything when I went to the event 3 years ago; all I heard was slander."
  • Danielle Mayorga: "I don’t want to fund security because I’ve been there and the police do not protect the students’ right to peacefully and protest and assemble." (Mayorga’s argument here suggests that she prefers a "heckler’s veto" whereby the government or its agents censor a speaker’s expression because of the disruptive actions of a third party. In this instance, Mayorga might even be arguing that the police should not step in to protect David Horowitz from angry protesters, so LC should not allocate funds for security to protect the speaker.)

The evidence here is quite clear that at the very least, the College Republicans would have been allocated $1,100 rather than $800 were it not for the viewpoint discrimination by the Associated Students Legislative Council. FIRE’s letter asks UCSB administrators to intervene to ensure that, at the least, the College Republicans are allocated the $300 that was denied due to hostility to Horowitz and his protected expression.

UCSB also ought to let the student government know, in no uncertain terms, that it needs to eliminate all of its viewpoint discrimination from its funding criteria, in both policy and practice. The student government is an agent of UCSB and therefore of the state of California. This means that the student government may not deny funding for events because of dislike for a speaker or disagreement with his or her views, nor may it allocate funding because of agreement with a speaker’s views. A vote regarding an allocation of mandatory student activity fee funds is not a popularity contest but a dispassionate decision about whether the organization has fulfilled viewpoint-neutral criteria. The Supreme Court has decided, in fact, that such allocations must be viewpoint neutral.

It seems that UCSB has a long way to go to get its house in order and comport with the First Amendment.

Schools: University of California, Santa Barbara Cases: University of California, Santa Barbara: Viewpoint Discrimination in Student Activity Funding