Nick DeBenedetto, president of Rutgers Law Camden Federalist Society, warned FIRE of its campus position of discrimination.
Rutgers Law Student Government for Student Groups: Promote Critical Race Theory or Loss Funding
May 17, 2021
CAMDEN, NJ, May 17, 2021 – Need more funding for your club at Rutgers Law School? The Rutgers' Student Bar Association can help, but only if you put on your critical race theory lenses first.
Today it is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education called out Rutgers University, home to the largest public law school in the Northeast, to repeal an SBA requirement that forces student groups to organize certain ideological events to qualify for student grants.
"Rutgers' student government is holding student group funding hostage until students commit to a particular ideology," said FIRE program manager Zach Greenberg. "Students should not be forced to choose between funding their club and their own beliefs."
The Rutgers Camden campus SBA added a section to its constitution on Nov.20 entitled “ Student Organizations Promoting Diversity and Inclusion, '' which mandates that any group providing more than $ 250 in want to receive, "Schedule at least one (1) event that covers their chosen topics through the lens of Critical Race Theory, diversity and inclusion, or cultural competence." Last fall, 19 of the 22 student groups charged more than $ 250.
This puts sororities in the knots: do they need to apply for the funding they need, even if it would require planning an event – such as hosting a speaker, outing or mixer – that may conflict with or unrelated own views of the group?
FIRE learned about the SBA's mandate when the Federalist Society's Rutgers Law Camden chapter reached out to us with their concerns.
“The SBA puts student organizations in a position where they have to take positions that they may disagree with,” said Nick DeBenedetto, the group's chairman. "Worst of all, SBA policies may in the future stifle the creation of new student organizations that disagree with critical racial theory or simply don't want to take a stand."
As a public institution, Rutgers is bound by the First Amendment, which prevents the school from discriminating against student groups based on views. So the Rutgers SBA is constitutionally required distribute funds in a viewpoint-neutral manner. The unconstitutional funding provision of the SBA is anything but position-neutral. Organizations should be free to apply for funding for events through the "lens" of their choice. The SBA is welcome to plan its own events through the "lens" of critical race theory, but it cannot force student organizations to promote critical race theory as a condition of receiving funding.
FIRE letter Rutgers, President Jonathan Holloway is asking the university to immediately revoke the unconstitutional condition and commit to distributing student grants in a viewpoint-neutral manner.
"While Rutgers claims to support diversity and inclusion, this requirement will rule out differing opinions and hinder the expression of different perspectives," Greenberg said. "If Rutgers executives want to promote diversity and inclusion on their campus, they can start by not discriminating against their student groups based on point of view."
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRElisten)) is an impartial, non-profit organization dedicated to defending and upholding the individual rights of students and teachers of U.S. colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, freedom of association, fair trial, legal equality, religious freedom and sanctity of conscience – the essential qualities of freedom.
Katie Kortepeter, Media Relations Associate, FIRE: 215-717-3473; [email protected]
Jonathan Holloway, President, Rutgers University: 848-932-7454; [email protected]