University of Texas at Austin: Lack of Transparency in Student Group Funding Raises First Amendment Concerns
In March 2014, the UT Objectivism Society applied for $1,920.64 in funding from the University of Texas at Austin (UT) Events CoSponsorship Board (ECB) to support a planned on-campus debate. ECB is staffed by students and supported with funding collected through UT’s mandatory student activity fees for the purpose of supporting student programming. On March 22, the UT Objectivism Society was informed by ECB that its request for funding had been denied. When questioned by the group about its reasons for rejecting the funding request, ECB replied only that it was “unable to disclose any information regarding the deliberation process whether or not an event was funded.” After FIRE wrote to UT, raising concerns about ECB’s lack of transparency and the potential for unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, UT clarified that ECB would in the future make clear to groups its reasons for approving or denying funding to alleviate concerns about such discrimination.
May 19, 2014
The assessment of mandatory student fees for the purpose of supporting a variety of student organizations and programming is commonplace at public universities. Distribution of these funds is often placed in the hands of students themselves, with the understanding—reinforced by multiple Supreme Court decisions—that this process must be content- and viewpoint-neutral. In the absence of transparency, however, the fair allocation of student fee funds can be threatened—as was until recently the case at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Fortunately, in response to concerns raised by FIRE, UT is taking steps to ensure transparency is restored and funds are distributed even-handedly.» Read More