Jacob Sullum at Reason’s Hit and Run:
Today John R. Jones III, associate vice president of Northern Illinois University, informed Jeremy Orbach, president of the school’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, that NIU’s administration is stepping in to recognize SSDP as a “social justice, advocacy, and support organization,” which means it can use campus facilities and is eligible for activity fee funding. The administration is thereby overriding the Student Association Senate, which twice voted against recognizing SSDP based on vague, constitutionally suspect criteria. In a letter (PDF) to Orbach, Jones writes:
I have made the determination, under the unique circumstances of this case, to administratively recognize SSDP as a student organization at Northern Illinois University. Your application appears to be in order, and the other documentation that I have reviewed is not sufficiently clear to identify a justifiable reason for the denial of such recognition….
This is not a big surprise. As a state university, NIU is the government as far as the 1st Amendment is concerned.
Once this story hit the news, their legal counsel probably told them that the student association actions were leading to an legally actionable result.
Congrats to NIU for such a prompt response and for going the step beyond to fix the process.
In addition to this action, the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management is establishing a task force comprised of University officials and Student Association members to review and revise the recognition and funding processes as they relate to student organizations…
Lastly, the SA is collaborating with the University to develop a more formal training module for use by the Student Association on the applicable legal standards that have been established by the court systems regarding student recognition processes in public university settings.