Rutgers: Student Newspaper Defunded After Unconstitutional Referendum

Category: Cases, Free Speech
Schools: Rutgers University – New Brunswick

The Daily Targum, the student newspaper at Rutgers University and one of the oldest student newspapers in the country, had been funded through a recurring referendum since 1981. Every three years, at least 25% of the students in each Rutgers “college, campus, or division” had to affirmatively vote to fund the Targum for the paper to receive a predetermined fee from each student. Starting in 2017, the Rutgers Conservative Union pushed to de-fund the paper based on a sense that the Targum did not treat conservative voices equally. In 2019, for the first time since the process was implemented, the Targum failed to meet the 25% vote threshold in any college, resulting in a total loss of student activity funding, amounting to approximately $540,000.

In June 2019, FIRE wrote to Rutgers pointing out that the referendum mechanism was unconstitutional. FIRE called on Rutgers to restore funding to the Targum and discontinue the use of the referendum mechanism in the future.