CAMDEN, N.J., May 17, 2021 — Need more funding for your club at Rutgers Law School? The Rutgers’ Student Bar Association can help — but only if you put on your critical race theory lenses first.
Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education called on Rutgers University, home of the largest public law school in the Northeast, to rescind an SBA requirement that forces student groups to host certain ideological events in order to be eligible for student fee funding.
“The Rutgers student government is holding student group funding hostage until students commit to a particular ideology,” said FIRE Program Officer Zach Greenberg. “Students shouldn’t be forced to choose between their club’s funding and their own convictions.”
The SBA of Rutgers’ Camden campus added a section to its constitution entitled “Student Organizations Fostering Diversity and Inclusion” on Nov. 20, mandating that any group that wishes to receive more than $250 in university funding must “plan at least one (1) event that addresses their chosen topics through the lens of Critical Race Theory, diversity and inclusion, or cultural competency.” Last fall, 19 of 22 student groups requested more than $250.
This puts student clubs in a bind: Should they request the funding they need, even though it would require planning an event — such as hosting a speaker, outing, or mixer — that may be at odds with or unrelated to the group’s own views?
FIRE heard about the SBA’s mandate when the Rutgers Law Camden chapter of the Federalist Society reached out to us with their concerns.
“The SBA is placing student organizations in a position where they must adopt viewpoints they may not agree with,” said Nick DeBenedetto, the group’s president. “Worst of all, the SBA’s policy may stifle the establishment of new student organizations in the future that do not agree with critical race theory or simply wish to take no position.”
As a public institution, Rutgers is bound by the First Amendment, which precludes the school from discriminating against student groups based on viewpoint. The Rutgers SBA is therefore constitutionally required to distribute funds in a viewpoint-neutral manner. The SBA’s unconstitutional funding stipulation is anything but viewpoint-neutral. Organizations should be free to request funding for events through the “lens” of their choice. The SBA is welcome to plan its own events through the “lens” of critical race theory, but it can’t compel student orgs to promote critical race theory as a condition of receiving funding.
FIRE’s letter to Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway asks the university to immediately rescind the unconstitutional condition and commit to distributing student funds in a viewpoint-neutral manner.
“While Rutgers purports to support diversity and inclusion, this requirement will exclude differing opinions and hinder the expression of diverse perspectives,” said Greenberg. “If Rutgers administrators want to further diversity and inclusion on their campus, they can start by not discriminating against their student groups on the basis of viewpoint.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience — the essential qualities of liberty.
Katie Kortepeter, Media Relations Associate, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan Holloway, President, Rutgers University: 848-932-7454; email@example.com