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Groups sue Minnesota university system, group over ‘coerced’ speech

(The Center Square) – Two groups sued a group called Students United, the St. Cloud State University and SCSU’s responsible administrators for allegedly violating college students’ First Amendment rights.

On Thursday, the Liberty Justice Center and the Upper Midwest Law Center filed a Lackie v. Students United in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

The Board of Trustees requires all students attending any of the seven universities in the Minnesota State system to be members of and pay fees to Students United.

Students United’s political advocacy includes a project called “Fck Student Debt,” which advocates for abolishing all student debt. Students United also advocates for changes to the tax code and election laws.

The lawsuit argues that requiring all students to pay fees to Students United as a condition of enrollment violates their First Amendment rights by compelling students to associate with and pay for political speech and activity.

The Liberty Justice Center and the Upper Midwest Law Center represent plaintiff Tayah Lackie, a recent St. Cloud State University graduate.

An accounting major entering a career in auditing, Lackie graduated from college without any debt by completing two years as a high school student through a dual enrollment program covering her tuition and fees and by working part-time to pay her third and final year’s tuition.

“The university never told me I was paying fees for Students United’s political speech. In fact, until shortly before I graduated, no one told me anything about Students United,” Lackie said in a statement. “I don’t agree with a lot of what Students United says, and I shouldn’t have to pay for it. As someone who paid my own way without taking on debt, I particularly resent having to pay for lobbying to eliminate the debt of others who did take on loans.”

The university hasn’t responded to a request for comment. 

James Dickey, senior trial counsel at the Upper Midwest Law Center, said the lawsuit aims to change the school’s policy.

“Coerced speech and compelled association are violations of your constitutional rights, plain and simple. What the Minnesota State Board of Trustees has mandated is unacceptable under the First Amendment, and we’re thrilled to challenge their policy,” Dickey said in a statement.

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