The University of Florida is changing its free speech code after settling a lawsuit brought on by a conservative student group who claimed the school denied them resources for speakers.
It was back in December of 2018 that the UF Young Americans for Freedom chapter filed a lawsuit against the university and its restrictive policy.
The University of Florida campus policy in question split student organizations into two monetary groups: budgeted and non-budgeted.
While UF YAF requested to become a fully budgeted group, a request denied by UF’s student government, a code revision was made to bar non-budgeted organizations from receiving funding for speaking engagements.
According to the conservative student group, the organization was denied funding by UF to bring in National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch and writer Andrew Klavan.
Blake Meadows, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, went to bat for UF YAF, pointing out that UF’s mandatory Activity and Service Fee used to fund student expression trampled on the First Amendment rights of non-budgeted student groups.
“University of Florida administrators are limiting YAF members’ First Amendment freedoms by forcing them to pay into a system that funds opposing viewpoints,” Meadows said at the time the lawsuit was filed. “Worse yet, the university forces YAF to play an arbitrary, complex game of Chutes and Ladders in the funding process, wherein the student group can continually be sent back to the beginning of the game at the sole discretion of the student government.”
Following the settlement announcement, Young America’s Foundation spokesman Spencer Brown blasted the old policy and praised the UF YAF members involved in the First Amendment battle.
“UF’s old policy stifled student expression and censored conservative ideas on campus. The old policy unfairly taxed conservative students to underwrite the expression of leftist speakers on campus,” Brown said. “ Young America’s Foundation commends the UF YAF chapter, Sarah Long, and Danny Weldon for fearlessly fighting for First and Fourteenth Amendment rights on campus.”
Long, former chair of the UF YAF chapter, called the settlement “a great victory for all students at the University of Florida.”
Weldon, who is now the chairman of the Florida College Republicans, wrote on Twitter, “Don’t be afraid to sue your school over illegal codes and policies. @yaf’s got you covered.”
In addition to changing campus policy, UF has agreed to pay $66,000 in legal damages.
“Conservative students at the University of Florida will no longer be discriminated against on the basis of their conservative beliefs by their university,” read the statement from the Young America’s Foundation, the parent organization for the UF Young Americans for Freedom chapter. “As a result of yesterday’s settlement, all student groups will now have equal access to Activity and Service Fee funding regardless of their viewpoint or set of beliefs. The university’s new policy requires the student government to approve funding requests by student organizations when a set of viewpoint-neutral criteria are met.”
The University of Florida released a short statement to the Miami Herald, which read, “UF and YAF have reached a mutually agreeable resolution of the lawsuit after determining it was in the interests of both parties to do so.”
Chris began his writing as a hobby while attending Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. Today he and his wife live in the Orlando area with their three children and dog.