Students (plaintiffs) attending Central Connecticut State College (CCSC) attempted to form a local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1969. The national SDS organization was viewed by some as having a philosophy of violence and disruption. During this time, widespread civil disobedience was occurring on college campuses, including vandalism, arson, and the seizure of buildings. The SDS chapters at some colleges were a driving force behind the disruptions. The president of CCSC, Dr. James (defendant), denied recognition to the newly formed SDS chapter at CCSC. This denial of recognition resulted in the CCSC SDS chapter being unable to utilize campus facilities, use campus bulletin boards, or use the school newspaper. President James wrote an article explaining that he was unwilling to sanction an organization that openly advocates the destruction of ideals and academic freedoms. President James also issued a statement indicating that the SDS chapter would be a disruptive force on the campus. The students in the CCSC SDS chapter were ambiguous about how they would respond to issues of violence and whether they would interrupt a class, but they asserted their independence from the national organization and indicated they only shared some of the national organization’s beliefs. The plaintiffs sued President James for violating the plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to associate. The district court ruled that President James’s refusal to grant recognition to the SDS chapter did not violate the plaintiffs’ right to associate. The court of appeals affirmed the decision on alternative grounds. The plaintiffs petitioned the United States Supreme Court for certiorari.