ASA files federal lawsuit against ABOR citing First Amendment rights violation
A lobbying organization has filed a federal lawsuit that accuses the Arizona Board of Regents of violating students’ First Amendment rights.
The suit comes on the heels of a unanimous vote last week by the Arizona Board of Regents to make a $2 per-student, per-semester charge an opt-in fee, meaning students would have to explicitly agree to the fee before paying it. Most fees, such as the Student Recreation Center fee, are opt-out; students are automatically charged but can request a refund.
Following the regents’ decision, the Arizona Students’ Association filed a lawsuit in federal court “because the Regents violated the First Amendment rights of students by suspending funding to ASA in retaliation for support of Proposition 204,” according to an ASA press release.
Last fall, ASA, which is a student organization that lobbies on behalf of higher education in Arizona, came under fire for donating more than $100,000 to a campaign advocating for Proposition 204, which would have extended a sales tax for education funding.
ABOR voted at its November meeting to suspend the ASA fee for the spring semester.
The goal of the federal lawsuit is to “protect students’ freedom of speech” and to “ensure that all student groups can make decisions without fear of retaliation from a governing board such as ABOR,” according to Zachary Brooks, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council and an ASA director.
“ASA made the decision to protect all students’ freedom of speech once ABOR retaliated against students’ decision to support an educational proposition,” Brooks said in an emailed statement. “It makes sense to us that an educational group supports educational ballot measures.”
However, Mark Naufel, president of the undergraduate student government on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, who resigned his position as ASA treasurer due to disagreements with the organization, said he did not understand the decision to file a lawsuit.
“I am in disbelief at ASA’s decision to sue the Arizona Board of Regents. It is absolutely ridiculous, and further justifies why the Undergraduate Students of Arizona State University took a stance to remove this fee,” Naufel said in a statement via email. “Right now ASA is using Students’ dollars to sue ABOR, who is the group [that] helps our universities receive public funding, and are constantly working to advance education in the state of Arizona.”
Rick Myers, chair of ABOR, declined to comment because the regents had yet to be served and did not have details regarding the lawsuit, aside from the press release sent by ASA.
“I think we’ll just have to wait and see,” Myers said. “I think there’s really nothing to say until we see what in particular that they’re having concerns with.”