Academia /

MSU Professor Made Students Pay $99 to Support Progressive Causes as a Course Requirement

Nathan Barbieri and Nolan Radomski are now suing MSU, arguing their First Amendment rights have been violated

Michigan State University is being sued by two students who were obligated to pay membership fees for a progressive organization to fund political causes supported by their professor.

Nathan Barbieri and Nolan Radomski allege that marketing professor Amy Wisner made paying the $99 membership fee for The Rebellion Community a course requirement for her spring 2023 Business Communication class – which is required for MSU undergraduates pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in business. The students argue the money was ultimately used to support causes that violate their religious beliefs. 

The course’s syllabus said that Wisner would not “receive any financial compensation” as that “would be a conflict of interest.” It said the fees were used to “pay for use of the technology” and to “pay guest speakers, educators, and facilitators. “

The lawsuit states Wisner made paying the membership fees a requirement for all 600 of her students — resulting in almost $60,000.

Barbieri and Radomski ultimately found a Facebook post from Wisner that was linked to a page for “The Rebellion Community” stating the group “is a safe place to coordinate our efforts to burn everything to the f—— ground.” In her post, Wisner wrote that “100% of membership fees are donated to Planned Parenthood.”

The students contend the professor “has forced them to materially support the homicide of innocent children.”

Wisner operated a GoFundMe page, offering memberships to The Rebellion Community as part of the fundraising effort. The fundraiser said “100% of funds raised beyond these start-up costs [for the RV] will be donated to organizations doing the work of dismantling oppressive systems.”

“Defendant Wisner has used funds generated by her requirement that students pay membership fees to The Rebellion Community to purchase the RV and to fund her own outside political speech and activism,” states the complaint.

According to the filing, the Rebellion Community’s total membership – 1,157 people – “is almost completely accounted for by the students that Defendant Wisner compelled to join The Rebellion Community between the fall and spring MKT 250 courses (which each enroll approximately 600 students).” 

Barbieri and Radomski are being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom.

“University professors can’t force students to finance and support political advocacy groups that express messages they disagree with. Nathan and Nolan simply want to get a business degree without being compelled to pay membership fees that will be donated to Planned Parenthood or support speech that directly contradicts their religious beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Logan Spena in a statement on May 22. “Michigan State officials have violated the First Amendment and federal civil rights laws by authorizing professors to force students to support speech antithetical to their deepest values and faith.”

The plaintiffs are seeking nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages from Wisner. In addition to Wisner, the interim dean of MSU’s business school Judith Whipple is named as a defendant.

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