HOUSTON – A student organization filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against officials at Lone Star College after one of its campuses derecognized the group for its conservative views. The six-campus system is the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent the CyFair campus chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas and its president.
The lawsuit challenges policies within the LSC System that give officials unrestricted authority to recognize and derecognize student organizations based on whether those officials approve of the viewpoints of the groups. The suit also challenges policies that require all students to pay student activity fees to fund student organization activities but only allow student groups that college officials prefer to draw from those funds.
“Public colleges and universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas, but that marketplace can’t function if only administrator-approved ideas are allowed,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “The courts have repeatedly found policies like the ones at Lone Star unconstitutional. College policies can’t give limitless discretion to officials to decide which student clubs will be recognized and which ones will receive funding.”
An official derecognized Young Conservatives of Texas on the CyFair campus after it posted a video online of an abortion debate that it sponsored with the school’s permission. The official then resigned as the club’s advisor because he said that the club didn’t obtain his permission to post the video. He also said the club’s mission didn’t align with the mission of the college.
“Lone Star System policies allow officials to make subjective judgments like that and then derecognize a club on that basis. That’s unconstitutional,” ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton explained. “It’s also unconstitutional that the college forces student organizations to go through a process for recognition that allows discrimination against minority viewpoints. Since recognized clubs have access to campus benefits, such as access to facilities and funding, the college cannot hinge recognition on whether college staff agree with a group’s views.”
In order for a student organization to be recognized, the club must have a faculty sponsor who is employed full time by the college. Because 75 percent of LSC-Cy Fair’s faculty is part-time and because the club couldn’t find a sponsor among the other 25 percent because many of them didn’t like the group’s conservative views, the college appointed a sponsor—the same official who eventually derecognized the club. The college provides no appeals process for such decisions.
Warren Norred, one of more than 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel for the student group in the case, Young Conservatives of Texas v. Head, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.