UC Santa Barbara Student Government Tries to Derail David Horowitz Event, Lies About It

By on May 26, 2011

The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) student government has unconstitutionally discriminated against the UCSB College Republicans by twice denying funding for a lecture tonight by David Horowitz because of his conservative views. After FIRE pointed out that discriminating on the basis of political views in student fee funding violates the First Amendment, UCSB student leaders apparently lied to UCSB officials, stating that Horowitz’s views were not a factor in the denial of funding. Meeting minutes and news articles prove, however, that UCSB unlawfully discriminated on the basis of viewpoint. Horowitz nevertheless will speak at UCSB tonight.

On May 3, 2011, independent student newspaper the Daily Nexus reported that the UCSB’s Associated Students (student government) Finance Board had recently denied a request from the College Republicans (CRs) for $2,000 to host David Horowitz for a speaking event. The Daily Nexus reported that this decision was "due to the controversial reputation" of Horowitz. The article reports that Finance Board member Ahmed Naguib explained that Horowitz "made several racist remarks about Arabs and accused people of terrorism last time he visited." The Finance Board meeting had taken place on May 2.

Likewise, in an email on May 3 to CRs President Steven Begakis from Lucy Nguyen, the Associated Students liaison to the CRs, Nguyen wrote that "College Republicans was not allocated funds for David Horowitz because the board believes that the dialogue between Horowitz and UCSB students will not be a constructive one." (Emphasis added.)

And the minutes from the meeting bear this out, many, many times:

-       Board members were very concerned with the history of the speaker at UCSB – one board member said he felt physically unsafe after his last talk here.
-       One board member stated that she felt Horowitz was coming to UCSB with a specific agenda, perhaps not a good one, and did not feel comfortable with that.
-       A number of board members stated they were all for expressing different opinions, but did not want to compromise the safety of students.
-       A number of board members asserted that this event should be funded under the freedom of speech in the Constitution.
-       One board member recounted that when he last came to this campus, there was no dialogue in the Q&A portion of the speech, but that he shouted and spoke over people.
-       Many were concerned with the action that was taking the last time Horowitz was here in that there was a full-page ad taken out of the Nexus that directly stated the Muslim Student Association was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and Hamas.
-       Many wondered where else the College Republicans were going to for funding.
-       The presenter for College Republicans did not seem to know much about the event or the funding request-the was a point of concern in that many questions asked by the Board were not sufficiently answered.
-       A number of board members stated that as much as you may ideologically disagree with this speaker’s message, it is important to give a voice to all sides.
-       Others asserted that this was not an issue of reluctance toward a different side, but it was a question as to the perceived safety of a campus organization following this lecture.
-       A number of times, the slogan "AS is a place for everyone" came up for both sides of the argument
o       For bringing him-every viewpoint should be heard
o       For not bringing him-inclusivity is a major theme of this association and to outcast a particular group would not be inclusive.
-       One board member brought up that it is important to be fair to different political opinions-we have funded Campus Democrats, we should be consistent with our funding.

The CRs appealed for reconsideration to UCSB’s Associated Students Legislative Council (ASLC), and the ASLC agreed to hear the appeal. On May 5, 2011, the Daily Nexus reported that ASLC had heard the appeal on May 4. According to the article, however, the ALSC debate featured a great deal of discussion based on viewpoint as a criterion for the decision to allocate funding:

Following a lengthy debate, the board [ASLC] swiftly approved a motion to allocate $1,100 for the event. [...] The result was met with outrage from the audience, as individuals shouted "You are sponsoring Islamophobia and racism on this campus," and "Who on this board is representing the Muslim community?" [...] The council eventually modified the amount to $800 [for security only].

FIRE wrote UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang on May 16, and we received a very strange response from UCSB Campus Counsel Nancy Greenan Hamill on May 20. She must not be reading the student newspaper, and somebody must have lied to the UCSB administration, because the response letter ignored all of this evidence of unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, stating:

[T]he funding approval was based on neutral criteria unrelated to the message content of the event.

This utter farce is once again torn to shreds by today’s Daily Nexus article:

A.S. Finance Board Chair Katie Lieberknecht said the board could legally deny funding to any campus organization’s financial request.

"There is no part of our Legal Code that says we have to fund anything," Lieberknecht said. "The rules concern what we cannot fund."

MSA Co-President Ahmed Naguib said the council’s partial funding was justified by the necessary distinction between freedom of speech and hate.

"Denying the right of someone to come and speak is different from denying funding for someone’s right to speak," Naguib said. "Now my student fees are going to support a speech that will create tension on campus."

These UCSB student leaders appear to have almost no idea whatsoever about the First Amendment responsibilities that pertain to allocating UCSB’s student activity fee.

Since UCSB Associated Students has failed to remedy its violation of the constitutional rights of the College Republicans, Chancellor Yang’s administration must step in to put an immediate halt to this violation of fundamental rights. FIRE will be writing Chancellor Yang a second letter pointing out this clear evidence of viewpoint discrimination so that he won’t fall for the lies of student leaders.

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