Open Access Articles- Top Results for Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth
Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2009)|
|Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth|
|Argued November 9, 1999|
Decided March 22, 2000
|Full case name||Board of Regents of Univ. of Wis. System v. Southworth|
529 U.S. 217 (more)|
120 S. Ct. 1346; 146 L. Ed. 2d 193; 2000 U.S. LEXIS 2196; 68 U.S.L.W. 4220; 2000 Cal. Daily Op. Service 2265; 2000 Daily Journal DAR 3049; 2000 Colo. J. C.A.R. 1471; 13 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 197
|Prior history||Southworth v. Grebe, 151 F.3d 717 (1998) (reversed)|
|Public universities may subsidize campus groups by means of a mandatory student activity fee without violating the students' First Amendment rights.|
</td></tr><tr><th colspan="2" style="text-align:center;background-color: #99c0ff; white-space:nowrap">Case opinions</th></tr><tr><th scope="row" style="text-align:left">Majority</th><td>
Kennedy, joined by Rehnquist, O'Connor, Scalia, Thomas, Ginsburg</td></tr><tr><th scope="row" style="text-align:left">Concurrence</th><td> Souter, joined by Stevens, Breyer</td></tr><tr><th colspan="2" style="text-align:center;background-color: #99c0ff; white-space:nowrap">Laws applied</th></tr><tr><td colspan="2" style="text-align:center"> U.S. Const. amend. I</td></tr></table> Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth, 529 U.S. 217 (2000), is a ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States which held that public universities may subsidize campus groups by means of a mandatory student activity fee without violating the students' First Amendment rights.
On April 2, 1996, three law students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison sued in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the university's mandatory student fee system, arguing that it was unconstitutional for portions of their student fee to fund political or ideological activities with which they disagreed. The plaintiff students were particularly concerned with multi-cultural groups, environmental groups, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups. The Board of Regents and the university system defended the fee system.
On November 29, 1996 the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in Southworth v. Grebe granted summary judgment in favor of the three law students. The district court ruled that the fee system violated the students' free-speech rights by compelling them to fund speech they disagreed with.
On August 10, 1998, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Southworth v. Grebe upheld the district court decision in favor of the three students. The appeals court panel concluded that the university funding of private political speech was not germane to its mission and that even if it were the university did not have a compelling reason to require students to fund speech they opposed.
On October 27, 1998, the full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition for rehearing.
The University of Wisconsin appealed the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the marketplace of ideas created by student fees is an appropriate and important part of the school's educational mission. On March 29, 1999 the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari because the 7th Circuit's decision conflicted with precedent established in other circuit courts.
On March 22, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned the 7th Circuit ruling that ruled mandatory student fees unconstitutional. Mandatory student fees currently fund a diverse array of activities ranging from lecture series to health services to the student newspaper.
The Supreme Court's ruling provided a legal framework for a student fee system that engages students on issues ranging all over the political, social, and activist spectrum.
Summary of the ruling
The Court held that the government can require public university students to pay a student activity fee even if the fee is used to support political and ideological speech by student groups whose beliefs are offensive to the student, as long as, the program is viewpoint neutral.
The opinion of the Supreme Court, written by Justice Kennedy, made these key points:
"Viewpoint Neutrality" and the First Amendment
When the Court states that funds must be allocated in a viewpoint-neutral manner, they mean that funding decisions cannot be based on a particular group or activity's point of view. Thus, the decision to fund or not to fund an organization cannot be contingent on the content of the group's message. This method of allocating funds protects students' free speech rights by ensuring that all viewpoints, including those that are controversial, have an equal chance to receive student fee funding. Unfortunately, the concept of viewpoint neutrality has been subject to misinterpretation:
The Court makes "no distinction between the on and off-campus activities" of student organizations and states that "universities possess significant interests in encouraging students to take advantage of the social, civic, cultural, and religious opportunities available in surrounding communities and throughout the country."