The Un-Freedom of Association

By April 13, 2005

A reader just wrote in to inform us of a recent student government proposal at Princeton University to add a “nondiscrimination” statement to its constitution that may infringe on students’ rights to freedom of association. The Daily Princetonian reports:

The amendment as it stands would add a non-discrimination clause to the [University Student Government] constitution that would prohibit the USG from funding or recognizing any group that discriminates in its membership on the basis of several factors. Those factors encompass the criteria listed in “Rights, Rules, Responsibilities,” and extend also to gender identity and expression, marital status, national origin, parental status and physical appearance.
The amendment would also prohibit discriminatory groups from participating in any USG-sponsored recruiting event.

Ironically, the proposed amendment would itself be discriminatory toward expressive student organizations, such as religious groups, who associate based on belief, not status. Along with notifying us of the article, the reader commented:

It is interesting that despite the efforts of groups like [FIRE] to educate college students and administrators that proposals like this are still a regular feature of university life.

Indeed, FIRE recently wrote the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire about a similar rights-violating Student Senate amendment that passed last month. The amendment states that a student-organized activity “shall not endorse a particular ideological, religious, or partisan viewpoint” to be eligible for student-fee funding. Basically, the amendment grants the Student Senate the power to arbitrarily censor student organizations it feels are “biased.”
FIRE is still waiting for a response from UWEC and will continue to monitor the situation at Princeton. Stay tuned!

Schools: University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Princeton University