Board of Regents v. Southworth

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In Board of Regents of Univ. of Wis. System v. Southworth, 529 U.S. 217 (2000), the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court allowed the collection of mandatory student activities fees by the University of Wisconsin only if they are spent in a viewpoint-neutral manner, without bias toward liberal programs:[1]

"The First Amendment permits a public university to charge its students an activity fee used to fund a program to facilitate extracurricular student speech if the program is viewpoint neutral. We do not sustain, however, the student referendum mechanism of the University's program, which appears to permit the exaction of fees in violation of the viewpoint neutrality principle. As to that aspect of the program, we remand for further proceedings."

The Court continued:[2]

"The government, as a general rule, may support valid programs and policies by taxes or other exactions binding on protesting parties. Within this broader principle it seems inevitable that funds raised by the government will be spent for speech and other expression to advocate and defend its own policies."

The Court assumed that compelled funding of government speech does not alone raise First Amendment concerns.

Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the opinion of the court, joined by Justices William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice David Souter( joined by Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer) filed a concurring opinion.


  1. Id. at 220
  2. Southworth, 529 U.S. at 229.

External links

  • Case at FindLaw (registration may be required)