Ball State's chapter of Students for Life filed a lawsuit against university officials after being denied funds to support the organization. The students are seeking $289 in compensation.
Ball State chapter of Students for Life files lawsuit against university officials
On Wednesday, attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom, ADF, filed a federal lawsuit against Ball State University officials on behalf of Students for Life.
The lawsuit began when Ball State’s chapter of Students for Life was denied $300 to be used toward educational resources for pregnant and parenting students in Feb. 2018.
When Students for Life was denied funding, it was notified of the university’s policy prohibiting student organizations “that the university decides engages in any political or religious or ideological expression from getting access to that funding,” said Caleb Dalton, an attorney for ADF. However, this policy cannot be found online and the deciding committee does not make recordings of its meetings publicly available according to the lawsuit.
Decisions on when student organizations receive funding are made by the Student Activity Fee Committee, which is composed of the president of the Student Government Association (SGA); representatives from Student Affairs and Enrollment Services, Student Affairs and Enrollment Services Budget Office and Academic Affairs; and a student appointed by the SGA.
The Daily News reached out to Greg Carbó, who was president of SGA at the time the request was denied, to learn how the Student Activity Fee Committee decides which organizations receive funding, but did not receive a response.
Dalton, however, said various groups at Ball State who partake in activities that should disqualify them from funding received funds during the last academic year, including Feminists for Action.
“The Feminists for Action Group has engaged in lobbying at the congressional level to lobby for funding for abortion, and that opposes Students for Life’s viewpoint,” Dalton said. “[Students for Life believes] every life is valuable and they would like to educate students and have access to those same funds to be able to educate students on alternatives and options other than abortion and they should have the ability to participate in that marketplace of ideas just like every other student group.”
When asked to comment on the lawsuit, Marc Ransford, senior media strategist, stated in an email, “Ball State has a policy of not commenting on litigation."
The lawsuit claims Ball State violated the students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and the students are seeking $289 in compensation.
A statement from ADF said, “this sweeping authority allows [the university] to deny recognition and funding for any reason, including unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination” and “public universities cannot refuse to approve a student group without justification and must ensure recognition and student activity funding are approved in a viewpoint-neutral manner.”
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said in a press release that Ball State’s SGA is “playing favorites and stifling free speech,” while the university says “it pledges to ‘value the intrinsic worth of every member of the community.’”
“If BSU wants to respect every member of its community, it will give Students for Life, along with other groups, equal footing,” Hawkins said in a press release. “We support the free-speech rights of all students, encourage the open exchange of ideas, and ask that the rights of pro-life students be respected as their peers’ rights are.”
This story will be updated.