Student Organization Sues Minnesota State Board of Trustees

A student organization representing students at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges filed a federal lawsuit against the Minnesota State Colleges and University System Board of Trustees Thursday. The suit accuses the board of violating students’ First Amendment rights.

The organization, LeadMN, alleges that the board refused to collect a standard fee proposed by student representatives to fund LeadMN’s activities. The system is required by state law to collect funds to allow the student leadership group to participate in “protected speech, assembly, and advocacy,” according to the complaint. Students claim that the board is retaliating against the student organization for advocating for a tuition freeze granted by the state Legislature.

“Since June 2021, Trustees have refused to collect funds LeadMN intended to use for assembly and expression protected by the First Amendment in retaliation for LeadMN’s past speech and advocacy and to prevent speech disfavored by Trustees and by third parties Trustees favored,” the complaint reads.

Student leaders said they’re seeking an injunction that would prevent the board from violating their rights in the future.

“The First Amendment protects students, and student associations, from censorship by college administrators,” Mike Dean, executive director of LeadMN, said in a press release. “This lawsuit is necessary to protect students’ right to speak, and to hold leaders accountable for illegal efforts to silence dissent.”

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