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Stop forcing students to pay for speakers

New Jersey Republican state Sen. Joe Kyrillos proposed a bill last week in the New Jersey Senate that would stop state universities from charging students mandatory fees that are used to pay for sometimes-questionable campus speakers and lecturers – an idea that should be adopted.

The bill is in response to Rutgers University’s decision to pay $32,000 – $2,000 more than what was offered to Nobel-winning author Toni Morrison – to Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, a reality television star on MTV’s “Jersey Shore” who Kyrillos described as “a degenerate reality television star who offers neither useful advice nor any appreciable talents,” according to The Daily Caller.

The bill would require students to choose to opt into paying student activity fees rather than the payment being mandatory, as is the case now.

It’s unclear if Kyrillos’ specific technique is the best way to address this issue with a minimal amount of negative repercussions, but the attempt should be commended.

There’s certainly no shortage of controversial campus speakers.

Bristol Palin, daughter of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, was going to be paid a portion of $20,000 as part of a four-person panel paid to speak at Washington University in St. Louis earlier this year before the school canceled the appearance after students protested their fees being used to pay for her pro-abstinence speech.

“The Democrats and our friends, liberals, Republicans and abstinent individuals alike, believe this is an irresponsible use of Washington University resources on a 15-minute-fame speaker who contributes little to the intellectual fire of the university,” read a “No Thanks, Bristol” Facebook page created in opposition to Palin’s visit.

In 2006, USF hosted controversial conservative commentator Ann Coulter as part of the University Lecture Series (ULS) at a cost of $35,275, which came from student-paid Activity and Service (A&S) fees.

The controversial nature of some speakers leads many students to boycott events that go against their beliefs. Besides negative feelings toward a speaker, many students may simply not find them interesting. However, it doesn’t stop their money from funding them.

According to Florida Statute 1009.24 10(b), “The student activity and service fees shall be expended for lawful purposes to benefit the student body in general.”

Using fees to pay for speakers that students have little or no interest in seeing could be seen to violate this principle, taking money away from other projects that would benefit the entire school.

Politicians and universities across the U.S. must consider measures similar to the one Kyrillos put forth, as they would fairly end the practice of forcing students to pay for campus speakers that they don’t support.

These measures are needed before more colleges wrongly fund offensive or questionable speakers at students’ expense.