Conservatives claim victory after U Florida settles First Amendment case

The University of Florida Young Americans For Freedom chapter has declared a "win" for free speech after the school agreed to change a policy in response to a lawsuit. 

Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented UF YAF in Young Americans for Freedom v. University of Florida, announced Thursday that the University of Florida settled the lawsuit brought in December by changing a policy that the conservative student organization alleged was implemented to deny funding to certain groups based on their viewpoints. The money that YAF alleged UF denied it comes from mandatory student fees, which are allocated by the student government. 

[RELATED: Conservatives sue Univ. of Fla. over mandatory student fees]

The University of Florida has agreed that all organizations will now be granted funds based on requests that meet viewpoint-neutral criteria. Funds will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis and proportional distribution will apply for requests that come in at the same time. 

“I'm grateful to see common sense and constitutional rights return to the University of Florida," Sarah Long, who served as UF YAF chairwoman during part of the lawsuit, told Campus Reform. "I'm so proud of and grateful for everyone at UF YAF and their hard work to bring this to fruition. The university should be a marketplace of ideas where students can decide for themselves which ideas have merit."

"Moving forward, our chapter is excited to finally host the great speakers we were denied," Long added. 

[RELATED: Conservative group has funding suspended after hosting Prager]

As Campus Reform in December at the time the lawsuit was filed, the UF YAF chapter claimed the school had violated the First Amendment by requiring students to pay student fees, which, according to the group, were not distributed in a neutral manner.  As Campus Reform pointed out at the time, UF YAF had been denied budgeted organization status but was approved for speaker fees via a special request policy. That special request policy, however, was changed to only include budgeted student groups after UF YAF tried to obtain funds via the policy a second time.

ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer said in a statement Thursday, “Today’s college students will be tomorrow’s voters and civic leaders. That’s why it’s so important that public universities exemplify the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students."

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @afaith_media