UMich Libertarian Students Prevail in Lawsuit Alleging Political Discrimination

YAL has agreed to drop its lawsuit in exchange for administrators revising the policy.


Phoebelb / Wikimedia Commons

College campuses often seem culturally biased against non-liberals. But in some cases, political bias so deeply and obviously pervades official campus policy that no one can even defend it when challenged.

On that front, the Young Americans for Liberty declared victory in their legal battle with the University of Michigan after administrators agreed to pay out $14,000 and revise discriminatory funding policies.

Last year, YAL asked the university for $1,000 to bring anti-affirmative action activist Jennifer Gratz to speak on campus. UM collects mandatory fees from all students and uses them to subsidize events hosted by recognized student groups. But the university has a stated policy of declining to fund events deemed "political." Though the Gratz event was merely a lecture on the history of the affirmative action issue—and was open to all students—UM considered it a political event and did not provide funds.

The policy was not applied evenly, of course. UM funded plenty of student groups' political activities, provided that these groups manifested some left-of-center ideology or purpose. Student activity funds subsidized immigrants' rights conferences, Islamic groups, and even pro-affirmative action events. According to YAL's lawsuit, the university helped a students from the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) travel to Washington, D.C., to demonstrate on the Supreme Court steps in favor of race-based admissions preferences.

At least UM has recognized its group funding policy was clearly biased. YAL has agreed to drop its lawsuit in exchange for administrators revising the policy. UM will also pay $5,000 to the club and $9,000 to its lawyers from the Alliance Defending Freedom.