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University Of Florida Agrees To Stop Discriminating Against Young Americans For Freedom

U of F YAF
Back in December of 2018 conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) sued the University of Florida alleging the university’s process of disbursing student fees to fund non-budgeted organizations on campus was marred by discrimination against conservatives.

According to reporting by the Miami Herald the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter at UF, aided by Alliance Defending Freedom, sued the university’s Board of Trustees and its president on Dec. 21 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

The student group has helped organize on-campus speaking engagements for conservative commentators including Ben Shapiro and Dinesh D’Souza. The 45-page legal complaint alleged the group had been discriminated against by UF’s Student Government when senators denied YAF’s request to become a fully budgeted student organization and subsequently passed a code revision barring non-budgeted groups from filing funding requests for speaker fees.

“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 complaint stated according to reporting by miamiherald.com's Martin Vassolo.

The organization argued that the policy change specifically targeted their viewpoints because no other non-budgeted group had hosted a speaker at UF in recent years.

Students pay $19.06 per credit per semester, according to the lawsuit.

UF requires students to pay a mandatory Activity and Service Fee, which is allocated to fund student expression. But by barring YAF’s speaker fee request, the school was discriminating against YAF and other non-budgeted groups, according to the lawsuit.

The University of Florida is now paying $66,000 and making policy changes to settle the federal lawsuit brought by the conservative student group.

The Young Americans For Freedom (YAF) chapter agreed to settle its lawsuit against the university last Wednesday in exchange for eliminating the policies that prohibited the group from receiving speaker fees to bring in conservative speakers.

“We’re extremely proud to announce that free speech and the U.S. Constitution won on UF’s campus,” the group wrote on Facebook according to reporting by Michelle Marchante.

The Facebook post from University of Florida Young Americans for Freedom said:

We're extremely proud that free speech and the US Constitution won of UF's campus.

Despite brutal resistance from campus policies, we've invited brilliant speakers like Dinesh D'Sousa, Andrew Klavan and Christina Hoff Sommers.

And though this lawsuit is a victory for us, we must remember the words of Reagan: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."

We won't stop fighting for conservatism, free speech and diversity of thought on campus.

“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,” UF said to the Miami Herald in a statement.

Sarah Long, one of the lawsuit plaintiffs who was YAF president at the time, said she is happy with the settlement.

“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,” Long said in a written statement through her attorney. “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.”

As part of the settlement, the discriminatory policy was changed in June to require the approval of all requests that meet “viewpoint-neutral” criteria. If the request surpasses the available funds, the school will distribute the money on a first-come, first-serve basis with “proportional distribution” if requests come in at the same time.

The university’s $66,000 settlement fee will include payment to the chapter in damages for denying its speaker fees fund request, a reimbursement of student fees paid by two YAF members under the school’s old policy, and the group’s attorneys’ fees.

*CHQ Chairman Richard A. Viguerie served as Executive Secretary of YAF from 1961 to 1963.

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