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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Young Americans for Freedom reaches $66,000 settlement with UF

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Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) at UF has come to a $66,000 settlement with the university from a lawsuit filed in December.

 The conservative student organization filed a lawsuit against UF on Dec. 21 claiming UF policies were unconstitutional by restricting its freedom of speech rights, said Caleb Dalton, a legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Center for Academic Freedom (ADF).

The case was settled on Wednesday.

 The university issued a statement in regards to the lawsuit, said UF spokesperson Steve Orlando.

“UF and YAF have reached a mutually agreeable resolution of the lawsuit after determining it was in the interests of both parties to do so,” the statement said.

Sarah Long and Daniel Weldon were the two student leaders who represented YAF in the lawsuit. Dalton was their attorney.

“The former policies did not uphold the values of the marketplace of ideas at the University of Florida,” Dalton said.

 He said YAF was denied access to the funds it should have had access to based on old policies, but the university worked to get the policies changed after the lawsuit was filed.

The complaint was issued in response to a policy introduced last Spring by UF Student Government, according to a previous Alligator article. Under this policy, the university separates student groups into one of two categories: budgeted and non-budgeted.

YAF was placed into the non-budgeted group, meaning it had to request funding to host events, and was banned from using student activity fees to host speakers, according to the previous article. This led YAF to pursue legal action.

From there, UF suspended the unconstitutional policies of separating the groups and then worked with the ADF to get those policies changed, Dalton said.

 “They worked with us to get the policies changed which is why our clients were willing to dismiss the rest of the lawsuit,” Dalton said. “Everybody has equal access to the funding.”

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 The $66,000 covers what YAF was denied in its application for funding, the fees the students paid on their own and their attorneys fees and the cost of the case, Dalton said.

“We're happy that Young Americans for Freedom was willing to stand up and really fight for the rights of all students at the University of Florida and are grateful that the university has now changed their policies so they can uphold the value of being the free marketplace of ideas,” Dalton said.

He said the ADF has represented student groups across the country that face similar issues and believes all viewpoints should have equal access to funding in the marketplace for ideas.

“They're denied equal access, often because the student government or the university disagrees with their viewpoint which violates the constitution,” Dalton said.

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