Purpose and Effects: Viewpoint-Discriminatory Closure of a Designated Public Forum

In early 2010, amidst a series of racially charged incidents on campus, the student government president at the University of California at San Diego revoked funding to all student media organizations in response to controversial speech on the student-run television station. It is well established that once the government has opened a forum, including a “metaphysical” forum constituted by government funding for private speech, it may not discriminate based on the viewpoints expressed within that forum. However, it has not been clearly established whether the government may close such a forum for a viewpoint-discriminatory purpose. This Note argues that courts should hold viewpoint-discriminatory closures unconstitutional because: (1) government action motivated by the desire to silence a particular viewpoint is inconsistent with core principles underlying the First Amendment, and (2) even facially neutral actions motivated by illicit purposes tend to have unconstitutional discriminatory effects.