‘Reason’ Senior Editor Jacob Sullum on Student Rights at NIU

By on December 8, 2010

Reason magazine Senior Editor Jacob Sullum writes today about FIRE’s case at Northern Illinois University, where the Student Association Senatefor the second timerefused to recognize Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) this past Sunday.

Particularly eye-popping to Sullum (and to FIRE) is the lack of principle that seems to have guided the rejection. Remember the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry tries to return a gift out of spite? It’s a bit like that:

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 university, is bound by the First Amendment, which prohibits viewpoint-based discrimination in the allocation of funding and facilities to student groups. Why did the Student Association Senate nevertheless refuse to recognize SSDP when it had a second chance? If the majority had a justification aside from spite, it is not apparent in the account of the meeting provided by the Northern Star, NIU’s student newspaper:

Senator Austin Quick, who voted for recognition, said he was surprised that NIU SSDP was not recognized Sunday.

"I think with all the fear and blatant disrespect towards the SA Senate, it upset enough senators to sway their votes," Quick said.

Senator Khiry Johnson said he voted against the motion to approve NIU SSDP because they did not make changes to their application after their initial recognition postponement.

"I felt like they didn’t respect our decision the first time nor did they take our critiques seriously," Johnson said.

Given their inflated sense of their own importance and their experience in passing blatantly unconstitutional legislation just because they’re offended by something, these guys seem qualified to be real senators someday.

Pointing to FIRE’s press release, Sullum also highlights the mess the Senate has created with its unconstitutional policy banning "religious" and "political" groups from receiving funds as well as the apparently arbitrary distinctions it draws–giving funding to pro-life and pro-choice student groups while making SSDP and the Model United Nations into second-class citizens.

Thanks to Jacob and Reason for drawing more attention to the outrageous violations of student rights being perpetrated at NIU. Those who wish to learn more about this case can read about it on FIRE’s case page, and I encourage all readers to write NIU President John G. Peters and voice their opinions.

Schools: Northern Illinois University