Earlier this month, the University of Northern Iowa student government and its Supreme Court refused to recognize a proposed chapter of Students for Life on campus on the grounds that the group was “hateful” and not formed “in good faith.”
FIRE is happy to report that this week UNI President Mark Nook overturned that decision and granted formal recognition to UNI Students for Life.
In his decision, Nook noted:
Universities exist to give students and all members of the university community an opportunity to wrestle with a vast diversity of ideas and opinions, to challenge their perception of their own identity and the beliefs and opinions of others, and to grow in their understanding of natural and social systems.
Like FIRE in our first blog post about this saga, Nook recognized the similarities between the student government’s refusal to recognize Students for Life and the facts of Healy v. James. He said: “The parallels between the circumstances of Healy v. James and the circumstances of the [student government]’s denial(s) of UNI Students for Life’s registration . . . make clear that the . . . decision(s) must be reversed.”
FIRE agrees, and is pleased to see Nook make the right decision here and uphold his students’ associational and expressive rights. This decision serves as an example of the appropriate—and constitutionally sound—administrative response to viewpoint discrimination by a student government. It also ensures UNI’s compliance with Iowa state law, which prohibits public colleges and universities from denying benefits—including official recognition—to student organizations based on viewpoint.
FIRE defends students and faculty against this kind of viewpoint discrimination—no matter their viewpoint—and other threats to their expressive rights at public and private colleges and universities in the United States. If your rights are in jeopardy, get in touch with us: thefire.org/alarm.