Download audioStudent Activity Fees

Is it right for colleges and universities to require students to pay a student activity fee—and then allow that money to finance student groups with political agendas many students would never choose to support?

Scott Southworth doesn't think so. A student at the University of Wisconsin, Southworth challenged his school's student fee policy. He knew union members have a right to object to their dues being used for causes with which they disagree. Southworth argued in court that the university's policy—followed by most Michigan colleges and universities as well—violated his First Amendment rights not to have to subsidize speech he found offensive.

Incredibly, the U.S. Supreme Court supported the university—but said schools must be "viewpoint neutral" in dispensing funds. Yet, at the University of Michigan, politically left-wing groups received more than twice the funding from mandatory student fees as conservative or libertarian groups did in the Fall 1999 semester.

Thomas Jefferson said "it is sinful and tyrannical to compel a man to furnish money for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves in." Michigan colleges and universities should stop requiring students—whether on the political left or right—to subsidize groups they would never support voluntarily.