The opinion of the court was delivered by: PLATT
The plaintiffs have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The defendants have cross-moved for summary judgment.
The named plaintiffs are students at the State University of New York at Stony Brook ("SUNY"). They have brought this action on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated for violation of their civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
In particular, the plaintiffs challenged three regulations of SUNY which required mandatory dormitory residence for freshmen, mandatory meal plans and a $25.00 per semester cooking fee. The first two regulations of SUNY have since been changed to the satisfaction of the plaintiffs, and so those claims have been withdrawn.
The only remaining challenged regulation is the one requiring that all students in dormitories not participating in a meal plan pay a fee of $25.00 per semester for use of the cooking facilities in the dormitories. With the removal of the mandatory meal plan regulation, all students living in the dormitories now have the option of eating at least five dinners per week in the cafeteria or paying the cooking fee.
The plaintiffs challenge this cooking fee regulation because they argue that everyone living in the dorms has equal access to the dormitory cooking facilities, and thus the students not on meal plans are being discriminated against. The defendants admit that all students can use the cooking facilities, but argue that there is a rational basis for the discrimination in that students on meal plans will use those facilities less than students not on meal plans. The defendants argue that a $25.00 fee per semester is not unreasonable in light of the facts.
As there is no claim here that the discrimination was based on any suspect classification, the appropriate constitutional test is the traditional "limited scrutiny" standard. McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 6 L. Ed. 2d 393, 81 S. Ct. 1101 (1970); Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas, 416 U.S. 1, 39 L. Ed. 2d 797, 94 S. Ct. 1536 (1974); Bynes v. Toll, 512 F.2d 252 (2d Cir. 1975). Under that test the Court must see if the challenged regulation is reasonable and not arbitrary and bears a rational relationship to a legitimate State objective.
In this case the State's objective is to provide students with cooking facilities for the present and to provide students with better facilities in the future. The plaintiffs do not argue that this is not a legitimate state interest, and so we hold that this is a legitimate State objective and turn to the harder question of whether the regulation is rationally related to that objective. See, Prostrollo v. University of South Dakota, 507 F.2d 775 (8th Cir. 1974), cert. denied, 421 U.S. 952, 44 L. Ed. 2d 106, 95 S. Ct. 1687 (1975).
The plaintiffs argue that the regulation is not rationally related to the objective because all dormitory students are allowed to use the facilities, but only students not on meal plans must pay for the facilities.
As to that argument, the courts have been reluctant to question administrative regulations of school authorities. The Supreme Court in Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97, 104, 21 L. Ed. 2d 228, 89 S. Ct. 266 (1968), stated as follows:
"Judicial interposition in the operation of the public school system of the Nation raises problems requiring care and restraint. Our courts, however, have not failed to apply the First Amendment's mandate in our educational system where essential to safeguard the fundamental values of freedom of speech and inquiry and of belief. By and large, public education in our Nation is committed to the control of state and local authorities. Courts do not and cannot intervene in the resolution of conflicts which arise in ...