Minnesota State University Students Forced to Pay for Political Speech: The Liberty Justice Center and Upper Midwest Law Center Sue to Protect First Amendment Rights

May 9, 2024

On May 9, the Liberty Justice Center and the Upper Midwest Law Center jointly filed a lawsuit against a group called Students United, the St. Cloud State University, and SCSU’s responsible administrators for violating college students’ First Amendment rights by requiring them to pay fees to fund Students United’s political speech.

Policies of the state university system’s Board of Trustees require all students attending any of the seven universities in the Minnesota State system to be members of and pay fees to Students United—a private political organization that takes stances on controversial issues about which many students disagree.

Students United’s political advocacy includes a project called “Fck Student Debt” (website pictured below), which advocates for the abolition of all student debt. Students United also advocates for changes to the tax code and election laws.

The lawsuit argues that requiring all students to pay fees to Students United as a condition of enrollment violates their First Amendment rights by compelling students to associate with and pay for political speech and activity.

The Liberty Justice Center and the Upper Midwest Law Center represent plaintiff Tayah Lackie, a recent graduate of St. Cloud State University. An accounting major entering a career in auditing, Tayah aimed to graduate from college without any debt. She achieved her goal by completing two years as a high school student through Minnesota’s “PSEO” dual enrollment program that covered her tuition and fees, and by working part-time to pay her third and final year’s tuition.

“The university never told me I was paying fees for Students United’s political speech. In fact, until shortly before I graduated, no one told me anything about Students United,” said plaintiff Tayah Lackie. “I don’t agree with a lot of what Students United says, and I shouldn’t have to pay for it. As someone who paid my own way without taking on debt, I particularly resent having to pay for lobbying to eliminate the debt of others who did take on loans.”

“A state school can’t make you pay a political group just to be enrolled,” said Jacob Huebert, President of the Liberty Justice Center. “The Students United scheme violates students’ First Amendment rights, and we look forward to the courts saying so in our case.”

“Coerced speech and compelled association are violations of your constitutional rights, plain and simple. The system supporting Students United is unacceptable under the First Amendment, and we’re thrilled to challenge it,” said James Dickey, Senior Counsel at the Upper Midwest Law Center.

Lackie v. Students United was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on May 9, 2024.

The Liberty Justice Center’s legal filings in Lackie v. Students United are available here.


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