Students must allocate funds in a 'viewpoint-neutral manner,' free speech org states
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Student Body President Taliajah Vann announced that the student government executive branch would halt funding to pro-life businesses and organizations.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression sent Vann a letter on July 28 that implored student leaders to rescind the order on the premise of protecting viewpoint neutrality.
The controversy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) over pro-life funding is now getting national backlash.
The Student Body President Taliajah Vann announced on July 7 that the student government executive branch would halt funding to pro-life businesses and organizations.
Undergraduate Student Body Treasurer Logan Grodsky, however, told Campus Reform that the order would not impact student groups, as funding is directed by the Senate.
“President Vann is only able to direct the funds that her branch expends,” he said. “The ability of a fee-receiving [organization] to express viewpoints with their funds is protected by law.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), which challenges First Amendment violations on college campuses, sent Vann a letter on July 28 that implored student leaders to rescind the order on the premise of protecting viewpoint neutrality.
Senior Program Officer for Student Organizations and Campus Rights Advocacy Zach Greenberg told Campus Reform that FIRE “implore[s] the student government, and the university administration, to ensure that student activity fee funding is distributed in a viewpoint-neutral manner.”
Vann responded to FIRE’s letter on Aug. 5 and assured that the order would only apply to the executive branch and that decisions regarding student funding would be made in a viewpoint-neutral manner.
After Vann's announcement was released, Finance Committee Chair Deniz Edral confirmed to Campus Reform that the order will have no impact on pro-life student organizations.
Edral said that, “funds are distributed in accordance with the funding criteria outlined in the Student Law, in compliance with Federal Law on viewpoint neutrality.”
Students for Life at UNC-Chapel Hill quickly released a statement on July 11 condemning the decision and accused the student government of “radical” partisanship and accused the executive branch of establishing a hostile campus environment.
“It is the responsibility of the UNC Student Government to ensure all these students and faculty are valued and respected on campus,” the statement read. “No Tar Heel should feel unwelcome or threatened at Carolina because of such personally held beliefs.”
Students for Life at UNC-Chapel Hill Co-President Abigail Buxton told Campus Reform that while the executive order does not cut off group funding, it will affect them “socially on campus.”
“Students in our group or who share our views feel alienated and it seems that we can almost no longer speak on our views since the governing body has seemingly told us that we are wrong and that those who share our beliefs are not welcome,” she said.
Buxton further stated that the group is not deterred by the order and will continue to push back against the order.
“Our group has already sent a letter in response to the actions of the executive board to the executive board itself, as well as to the administration,” she said. “We have been staying updated on the advances of these issues and have tried to respond as new information becomes available.”
Vann has doubled down on her decision to cut back affiliation with pro-life groups and claimed crticism of the order was “harmful misinformation.”
“Our position is firm and in accordance with the Code that governs the UNC student body and the law, and we encourage you to our website for our original statements regarding this issue,” Vann wrote in her Aug. 5 letter.
UNC-Chap Hill is not the only student government to take a pro-abortion position in the wake of the overturning Roe v. Wade’s fallout.
At Georgia Tech, for example, the student government association deleted an Instagram post that encouraged students to protest the decision and provided tips on preparing for arrest.
Campus Reform contacted every party mentioned for comment and will update accordingly.
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