In October 2013, the University of Michigan (UM) student government denied the university’s chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) funding for a speech by Jennifer Gratz, the winning plaintiff in a 2003 lawsuit against the university for its weighing of applicants’ race in admissions. In December, YAL filed suit against UM with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Last month, UM entered into a settlement agreement with YAL, agreeing to pay $5,000 to YAL as well as $9,000 in legal fees.
As my colleague Ari Cohn reported here on The Torch, UM had claimed that YAL’s request could not be granted because UM policies prohibit the Student Organization Funding Commission from funding “political or religious activities.” As a public university, UM may not reject funding for student groups’ activities based on their content or viewpoint. Worse still, UM had recently funded a range of other political events hosted by student groups, including a trip by a pro-affirmative action group to Washington, D.C., to protest on the steps of the Supreme Court.
In addition to paying $14,000, UM revised its policies on the use of university funds in order to clarify that the prohibition on using funds for political activities refers to campaign activities, not discussion of political issues. FIRE hopes to see this policy enforced neutrally in the future.