Legislative Retaliation against University Speech
MBerman at MAIL.LAW.UTEXAS.EDU
Fri Apr 5 13:06:44 PST 2002
WARNING: shameless plug below.
I argued in a recent article that part of what it must mean to have a
constitutional right is that the bearer of the right not be penalized for
exercising it, in the particular sense that the state not treat her worse
than it otherwise would have treated it, with a purpose of discouraging or
punishing exercise of that right. I won't bore all readers by presenting
the details of my argument here. If interested, see my "Coercion Without
Baselines: Unconstitutional Conditions in Three Dimensions," 90 Georgetown
L.J. 1 (2001), esp. pp. 32-36. That the Missouri legislature has run afoul
of this principle seems pretty plain, at least if that principle is
expanded (as I contended it should be) to accommodate cases in which the
adverse consequence is imposed on some third party who stands in certain
sorts of "close relations" to the right holder.
Because your facts essentially present an unconstitutional conditions
problem, don't be surprised (as I'm sure you won't be) to find case law
more or less on point that cuts both ways.
Assistant Professor of Law
The University of Texas at Austin
727 E. Dean Keeton St.
Austin, TX 78705
At 12:30 PM 4/5/2002 -0600, you wrote:
>Hi everyone, I'd like your thoughts on the following:
>The University of Missouri is currently experiencing an incident that
>raises some interesting questions. In response to certain activities of
>University employees, there is a legislative budget proposal reducing the
>University's operating budget by about $700,000. The most interesting
>incident involves the University of Missouri's publicly-supported NBC
>affiliate -- KOMU. After September 11th the manager of the station sent
>out a memo stating that the student-reporters who work on the local news
>could not wear flag pins while on air. The manager's reason was that he
>wanted the reporters to maintain objectivity while reporting the
>news. This caused quite a stir in Missouri and legislators at the time
>threatened to retaliate. They appear to have done so, claiming that a
>$500,0000 reduction in the budget for is a direct response to the KOMU
>The other interesting incident involves the fact that the legislature cut
>$100,000 because of a professor's "controversial writings on pedophilia."
> From a legal standpoint, I'm unsure how to analyze this. If this were a
> refusal to fund a particular program (similar to Rosenberger), I would be
> reasonably comfortable arguing that these cuts are retaliatory against a
> particular viewpoint (which the legislature proudly owns up to I might
> add) and probably a constitutional problem (although I could be
> wrong). But since this is just a reduction in the gross allocation to
> the university, I'm not sure. The university is still free to allocate
> funds within its programs as it sees fit and KOMU/the professor may be
> absolutely unharmed in a monetary sense.
>Bottom line question: What constitutional analysis is appropriate for a
>gross reduction in the university's overall budget based upon the
>legislatures' anger about certain speech?
>For those interested, you can find relevant news articles at:
>Enoch N. Crowder Professor of Law
>University of Missouri-Columbia
>Columbia, Missouri 65211
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