Campus Free Speech

Rutgers Defunds Student Paper Because Referendum Turnout Was Too Low

The move violates the First Amendment, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.


Here's a strange case of campus censorship: Rutgers University will cease funding The Daily Targum after the student newspaper failed to garner enough support in a referendum.

The Targum actually won on the question of funding: 68 percent of students who participated in the vote said they wanted the paper to continue receiving financial support. But according to a quaint university policy, the paper had to earn support from 25 percent of the entire student body. Since turnout was only about 25 percent, The Daily Targum would have needed virtually everyone who showed up to vote yes.

That doesn't sit well with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has called on the public university to reverse course and fund the paper anyway.

According to FIRE, Rutgers' referendum policy violates the First Amendment:

Court precedents forbid public colleges from distributing student activity fees by referenda. The Supreme Court has said, under the First Amendment, the power to impose a mandatory student activity fee is tied to the obligation to distribute that fee in a viewpoint-neutral way. A referendum cannot be viewpoint-neutral because, as the Supreme Court has held in another student fee funding case, "access to a public forum … does not depend upon majoritarian consent."

This is not a small matter: The paper collects about $540,000 in student fees each year to support its operations.

In recent years, The Targum had come under fire from a conservative student group after it accused the group's president of modeling a promotional poster off of a white supremacist flyer. (He later admitted he had done exactly that.) The conservative students urged their fellow students to vote against funding for The Targum, or to not vote at all, since either outcome would imperil the paper's funding. Evidently, they got their way.

In any case, Rutgers should heed FIRE's warning. To subject the student paper to a bizarre personality contest in which it can lose even by winning is ridiculous. And if right-wing students don't want to be accused of tacitly supporting white supremacy, they should not take design advice from Vanguard America.

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  1. Why wasn’t this post written by Nick, Rutgers’ Most Famous Alum?

  2. “To subject the student paper to a bizarre personality contest in which it can lose even by winning is ridiculous.”

    You mean like you and I do everyday when we go to work and try to get people to buy our products. FIRE is in the wrong to fight this one. Their customers have spoken, they don’t want it otherwise they would have showed up and voted for it. They didn’t win because they didn’t get enough people to care to purchase their product.

    1. I usually love the work FIRE does but I also think they’re wrong on this one. This looks as viewpoint-neutral as it was possible to be.

      Don’t like the quorum rules? Well, it’s not like they weren’t well known ahead of time. In a lot of ways, it’s like the Electoral College. The time to complain would have been before you lost.

      1. This looks as viewpoint-neutral as it was possible to be.

        Think what this would mean — on any mostly liberal campus (and how many aren’t?), it would be a simple matter for administrators to pick a ‘viewpoint neutral’ vote threshold that would have the decidedly non-neutral effect of defunding virtually all non-leftist student groups.

  3. And if right-wing students don’t want to be accused of tacitly supporting white supremacy…

    Oh, they’re going to endure such accusations regardless of any graphic design choices.

    1. Stale old bigots supporting the dwindling group of fledgling bigots . . .

      The important point is that our improving society is rejecting bigots old and new.

      1. I always knew you were the self loathing type.

  4. Rev. Arthur L. K00kland
    June.5.2019 at 10:02 am

    The important point is that our improving society is rejecting bigots old and new.

    K00kland is rejected.

    1. You should be preparing for your replacement.

  5. The answer is simply. Don’t use student fees to fund school newspapers. Or just get rid of student fees entirely.

    I came to this view decades ago back in university myself. Not only did my student fees fund an explicitly Marxist newpaper (among others), but my fees went directly to Ralph Nader and CalPIRG. A condition of attending a taxpayer funded school was to pay an admittance few to a Marxist paper as well as a political lobbyist.

    1. I think the clear answer is *more* fees, so they can meet all the newspaper needs for each group of students.

      1. Do right-wingers wonder why all of our best schools are operated in the liberal-libertarian mainstream, while hundreds of conservative-operated campuses are third- and fourth-rate goober factories with sketchy accreditation, substandard reputations, and shambling graduates?

        1. Is the answer Saul Alinsky tactics?

  6. That kid sounds pretty based and redpilled, esp on mass importation/illegal migration being treason.

  7. So where did the money go?

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