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University of Florida Settles Lawsuit with Conservative Student Group for $66K

— August 5, 2019

The University of Florida agreed to settle a discrimination lawsuit with a conservative student group.

The University of Florida is forking over about $66,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter at the university. In the lawsuit, YAF accused the university of violating the “its members’ free speech rights.” YAF agreed to the universities settlement offer, with the agreement that the University of Florida will eliminate “the policies that prohibited the group from receiving speaker fees to bring in conservative speakers.”

Image of Lady Justice and Legal Books
Lady Justice and Legal Books; image courtesy of jessica45 via Pixabay,

When commenting on the settlement, YAF wrote on its Facebook page, “We’re extremely proud to announce that free speech and the U.S. Constitution won on UF’s campus.”

The suit itself was filed back in December and accused the university of discriminating against the YAF chapter “during the disbursement of student fees.” The YAF chapter was aided by Alliance Defending Freedom. Together the two groups argued that YAF was a “non-budgeted campus organization that frequently helped organize on-campus speaking engagements for conservative commentators including Ben Shapiro and Dinesh D’Souza.” When the YAF chapter asked to “become a fully budgeted student organization, UF’s Student Government denied its request.” Following the denial, the university passed a code revision “barring non-budgeted groups from requesting money for speaker fees.”

The suit also noted that the university requires students to pay a mandatory ‘Activity and Service Fee,’ which goes towards funding student expression, including special speaking events. The particular fee is $19.06 per credit per semester, according to the suit. However, the suit argued that by “barring YAF’s speaker fee request, the school was discriminating against YAF and other non-budgeted groups.”

The suit further stated:

Under this new policy, budgeted student organizations can advocate for their own viewpoints both directly and by bringing in guest speakers, but non-budgeted student organizations cannot obtain funding to similarly express themselves.”

The YAF chapter also claimed the university’s policy change “targeted their viewpoints because no other non-budgeted group had hosted a speaker at UF in recent years.”

As part of the recent settlement, the university’s policy changed back in June and will now “require the approval of all requests that meet viewpoint-neutral criteria.” From there, if any requests surpass the university’s available funds, it will “distribute the money on a first-come, first-serve basis with proportional distribution if requests come in at the same time.

Sarah Long, the YAF president when the suit was filed and one of the plaintiffs in the suit, was pleased with the settlement. She said:

“We hope that the changed policies we achieve through this lawsuit will mean that diverse viewpoints are better represented in the marketplace of ideas at UF. And we hope it makes both students and administrators think about the value that free speech (whether we agree with it or not) brings to society because universities should be encouraging free speech and diversity of thought, not shutting down groups they disagree with.”


UF pays $66,000 to settle conservative student group’s lawsuit


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