Letters to the EditorOpinion

Letter: Viewpoint neutrality exists because of mandatory student fee



After I read the Constitutional Court’s decision in my favor in the Rudin v. Bowman issue, I expected some people to be unhappy. I also expected some people to be upset with me. I even expected people to write letters to the editor criticizing Con Court’s decision. I did not, however, expect people to spread false information about the Court’s decision and about my motives. Because it happened, I am setting the record straight.

ACFC Vice Chair Christina Hardesty’s@@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=student&d=person&b=name&[email protected]@ and ACFC Member Shabd Khalsa’s @@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=student&d=person&b=name&[email protected]@letter demonstrates a lack of understanding of viewpoint neutrality. The requirement of viewpoint neutrality is to judge every funding request by the services provided, not by the viewpoint espoused. Those are my words, and the words of the majority of the Con Court. Supporting funding for a political advocacy group because you like the issues it works on is biased. Supporting funding for a political advocacy group because, in your opinion, it will leave a better world is biased.

Courts have been clear that universities are welcome to facilitate and empower students in engaging in dynamic political, religious and social dialogue, and they must distribute such funds in a viewpoint-neutral manner. To do so in a viewpoint-discriminatory manner is to amplify or suppress one side over the other. Courts have said that, in those cases, universities are violating students’ First Amendment rights.

You are welcome to discriminate in such a way when donating your own money.  You, as a student, can absolutely and actively support or oppose any organization you choose. However, when you are acting in your capacity as an elected official, you have to follow the rules. It’s really just that simple.

The rule of viewpoint neutrality exists because when you are using a mandatory student fee you have no right to impose on students your preferences for political groups. Viewpoint neutrality is a foundational principle of student government. In no uncertain terms, the Court ruled that Sen. Bowman abandoned that principle. Frankly, his statements since the ruling show an astonishing lack of remorse. One would think that when a student leader is found to have abridged the First Amendment rights of students, he would at least be sorry.@@[email protected]@

Ben Rudin
ASUO senator


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