Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Interest Groups Get Free Ride on Campus
Does the First Amendment extend to our nation's campuses? If a recent vote in the U.S. House of Representatives is any indication, the answer is a clear and resounding "No!"
The House voted 263 to 161 against an amendment offered by Rep. Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y., that would have made it illegal for colleges and universities to force students to subsidize political groups with which they disagree. The amendment would have stopped a wide array of special-interest groups - ranging from consumer and environmental organizations to those that advocate gay and lesbian rights - from using mandatory or deceptive student fees to fill their coffers. It would have forced them to rely on purely voluntary contributions to further their agendas.
Speaking for the Democratic minority - a minority that somehow reeled in more than 70 Republicans to help them defeat the proposal - Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich., said, "This is indeed a dangerous amendment."
His reason: Because this measure, like others the Republicans have crafted to defund such liberal icons as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts, would presumably stifle the free expression of those on the left.
Sadly, though, nothing could be further from the truth. This bill, far from squelching free speech, is perhaps the best way to reinstate it in the politically correct vistas of our nation's ivory towers.
For too many years, special-interest groups have been able to take a free ride on the backs of students who often do not even know, much less support, the organizations to which they are forced to contribute. These groups do this either by sneaking their charges into the mandatory student fees assessed at registration time or simply by slipping them into a "negative check-off" box on the college tuition bill. In this scheme, students are assessed a fee unless they are astute enough to check a box indicating otherwise. Failure to check the box, of course, means automatic payment.
The most conspicuous of these shamsters is Ralph Nader's Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, which garners millions of dollars each year largely through the use of negative check-offs. …