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Breaking News

Supreme Court Rules University Student Fees Do Not Infringe on First Amendment Rights

Aired March 22, 2000 - 10:25 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And we want to go live to the nation's capital, another decision coming down from the Supreme Court. This one should be of interest to college students around the country.

Charles Bierbauer standing by with that information.

Charles, good morning.

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn.

Indeed, public universities across the country were watching this case closely coming out of the University of Wisconsin, where a group of conservative student protested the use of their student activity fees to support some of the more liberal organizations on campus.

This is a policy that's been adopted at many universities. But the question before the Supreme Court was whether this was an infringement on the First Amendment rights of these students. The Supreme Court has ruled it is not, and ruled unanimously so, saying that what the University of Wisconsin sought to do was to provide broad forum for the discussion of ideas across a wide range, and that the fees were allocated on a viewpoint-neutral basis, and that there was indeed no First Amendment infringement.

This will be a sigh of relief that you will hear coming from universities across the countries. But the justices and the opinion of Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said that the campuses could adopt, if they chose to, some kind of checkoff system, whereby the students would checkoff those organizations they chose to support through their activity fees. The court did not mandate universities to do so.

Again, the bottom line here is, it is not an infringement on First Amendment rights for universities to collect student activity fees and to disperse them to organizations on campus espousing a wide variety of viewpoints -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Charles Bierbauer, reporting to us from the Supreme Court. Thank you, Charles.

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