STUDENTS SUE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OVER FIRST AMENDMENT VIOLATIONS
ST. PAUL, Minn., March 31 - A federal lawsuit filed today by LeadMN seeks to stop violations of
the First Amendment by Minnesota State’s Board of Trustees. LeadMN is the statewide student
association representing the 100,000 community and technical college students across
Minnesota. Its lawsuit is the result of Trustees’ illegal refusal to fund student speech and
advocacy because LeadMN has not always fallen in line behind Trustees’ decisions.
“The First Amendment protects students, and student associations, from censorship by college
administrators,” said Mike Dean, Executive Director of LeadMN. “This lawsuit is necessary to
protect students’ right to speak, and to hold leaders accountable for illegal efforts to silence
Read LeadMN’s complaint filed with the Court here.
LeadMN has consistently advocated for the students it represents, regardless of whether its
positions were popular with the Board of Trustees. In recent years, students were concerned
about the rapidly rising cost of Minnesota State college tuition. LeadMN’s student leaders
advocated for a tuition freeze with Minnesota’s elected leaders and the Legislature responded
by freezing college tuition. This defense of students frustrated Trustees and Minnesota State’s
In 2021, student representatives voted to approve a budget that would empower LeadMN to
better represent and advocate for students. By state law, Minnesota State is obligated to
collects the funds LeadMN requires for these efforts. Student representatives voted to set
LeadMN’s student fee at the same level Trustees had approved three years earlier for the
student association representing university students.
Instead of collecting the fees approved through the student-led budget process, Trustees and
the Chancellor worked covertly to generate opposition to LeadMN’s proposed fee from College
administrators, employee unions, and others with no proper role in decisions regarding
LeadMN’s funding. Trustees conferred outside of public meetings, through text and chat
messages, expressing their desire to retaliate in response to LeadMN’s views and speech. At
the end of this process, Trustees simply blocked LeadMN’s proposed fee. Trustees apparently
believe they have the right to refuse funding for speech, for any reason, without ever disclosing
“It is unconstitutional for government leaders to wield unchecked discretion to stifle dissent or
retaliate against speech they don’t like,” said Sam Diehl, attorney representing LeadMN.
“LeadMN merely desires to be part of Minnesota’s public discourse, not litigate. However,
Trustees’ illegal conduct has forced LeadMN to seek relief from the Court.”
LeadMN will seek an injunction barring Trustees from violating the First Amendment as soon as
the Court’s schedule allows the motion to be heard.