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.