Officials at Queens College in New York City say they will change policies that discriminated against pro-life student groups by not giving them official recognition, after a settlement was reached in a lawsuit against the school.
The school, which is a part of the City University of New York system, agreed this week to revise its student organization recognition and funding policies to prevent discrimination based on a club's beliefs, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, whose attorneys represented the campus Students for Life chapter in a lawsuit filed in January against Queens College.
The changes include concrete guidelines on the approval of student groups and allocation of funds, a requirement for a written decision, elimination of a discriminatory student body "referendum" on whether groups will be funded, and the addition of an appeals process that student organizations can use if they are denied recognition.
"When public universities unconstitutionally favor some student groups over others based upon their views, they act in direct contradiction to their role as the 'marketplace of ideas,'" said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton.
"We commend Queens College for finally deciding to do the right thing by their students and revise its policies. These revisions will ensure that no clubs are denied meeting space, funding, and other benefits necessary to form a club and fully participate on campus based solely upon their point of view."
Last fall, the pro-life group applied for "registered" status, seeking to join more than 100 student organizations, which include pro-abortion clubs, to be allowed to reserve meeting space, invite speakers and receive funding from mandatory student activity fees. However, officials delayed and then rejected Students for Life's application without explanation while approving the applications of at least two other groups immediately.
"Too frequently we see that public colleges and universities feel they can deny recognition or funding to a student group just because officials don't agree with the viewpoint of those students," said Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins. "Queens College was playing favorites while stifling free speech, but this settlement ensures that student organizations there will now be able to experience a free exchange of ideas."
After the suit was filed, the college decided to recognize the pro-life group but hadn't agreed to revise any policies at the time.
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"Today's college students will be tomorrow's legislators, judges, commissioners and voters," said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. "That's why it's so important that public universities like Queens College model the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students."