Conservative group sues after admin unilaterally yanks status
A conservative student group is suing Lone Star College for revoking its official status after the group posted a video of an abortion debate it had sponsored.
According to a press release from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing the CyFair chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT), the lawsuit “challenges policies within the LSC System that give officials unrestricted authority to recognize and derecognize student organizations based on whether those officials approve of the viewpoints of the groups.”
In addition, the suit also targets mandatory student activity fees that are used to fund student organizations, noting that only “student groups that college officials prefer” enjoy access to those funds.
The lawsuit asserts that the CyFair YCT had previously enjoyed recognition from the school after Vice President for Student Success Bennie Lambert agreed to serve as its advisor in the absence of other options, enabling YCT to hold an abortion debate on campus.
When the club posted video of the debate online, however, Lambert resigned as its advisor, saying the club had not obtained his permission to post the video, and that YCT’s mission was inconsistent with that of Lone Star College.
Lambert also enforced the school’s RSO [Registered Student Organization] and Student Activity Fee policies, and following his resignation he informed YCT that it would no longer be allowed to host events on campus because without an advisor it could no longer be a registered student organization.
“The requirement to obtain an advisor prior to granting a student group registration is a form of prior restraint, placing a heavy burden on the college to justify its denial of recognition,” the lawsuit contends.
“Conditioning the recognition of student organizations on first securing the agreement of a government official to act as an advisor to their organization,” it explains, allows that official “to decline to act as an advisor if the official disagrees with the viewpoint of the organization’s speech.”
Moreover, the lawsuit points out that LSC requires all students to pay student activity fees each semester, and that excluding YCT from the funding derived from those fees means that the group’s members “must fund the speech of groups that support liberal viewpoints but are denied access to this same funding to share their own opposing message.”
In addition to violating the free speech rights of YCT by denying them a forum for expressive activities, therefore, the lawsuit alleges that LSC also infringed on the group’s Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law.
“Lone Star System policies allow officials to make subjective judgments like that and then derecognize a club on that basis. That’s unconstitutional,” remarked ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton.
“It’s also unconstitutional that the college forces student organizations to go through a process for recognition that allows discrimination against minority viewpoints,” he added. “Since recognized clubs have access to campus benefits, such as access to facilities and funding, the college cannot hinge recognition on whether college staff agree with a group’s views.”
“The courts have repeatedly found policies like the ones at Lone Star unconstitutional,” added ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer. “College policies can’t give limitless discretion to officials to decide which student clubs will be recognized and which ones will receive funding.”
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