Take Action: Tell NIU to Meet Its First Amendment Obligations

December 6, 2010

Do you have something to say about the many violations of the First Amendment over at Northern Illinois University (NIU), as exposed in today’s press release? Use our Take Action page to give NIU President John G. Peters your opinion. We have offered some suggested language for you to consider.

Here’s a letter from Kenyon College Professor Fred Baumann that you might choose to adapt for yourself. We liked it so much, we got his permission to share it with you:

Dear President Peters:

I see that your student Senate has some very strange rules about what student organizations can get funding or be recognized on campus. To each his own, at least to a considerable degree. But when Baha’i students are funded and Christians are not, your university is discriminating on grounds of religion. When social advocacy groups with a clear political purpose, are funded but the Model United Nations is not, because, allegedly, it is a political organization, you are again engaging in discrimination but you are also making nonsense of the putative distinctions by which you (here meaning NIU) claim to be judging things. When you forbid a student organization to post flyers you are violating freedom of the press. When you ban support for organizations that petition government you violate the Constitutional right to petition. Aside from the fact that, as a public university, you are bound by law to respect the First Amendment, which your Student Senate doesn’t seem all that familiar with, wouldn’t it simply be a good thing for the university to develop a policy about student organizations that was at once more fair and more rational? To your credit, I guess, I don’t see any ideological consistency in the pattern of who is included and who is excluded (indeed the results seem almost comically illogical), but discrimination that is merely arbitrary is nonetheless injustice and ought to be corrected.


Fred Baumann
Professor of Political Science

Thanks, Professor Baumann!

You also could let President Peters know what you think by calling him at 815-753-9500 or e-mailing jpeters@niu.edu.

Schools:  Northern Illinois University

Cases:  Northern Illinois University: Unequal Treatment of Political and Religious Student Organizations