A Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter and several students at the University at Buffalo (UB) filed a lawsuit against the school’s Student Association for allegedly kicking their chapter off campus after prohibiting student groups from taking part in national organizations.
In March, the Student Association changed its policy to prohibit student chapters from being part of national organizations in order to be officially recognized on campus, with the only exceptions being “Academic, Engineering, or Sports Councils, and clubs whose sole purpose is to engage in inter-collegiate competition,” according to the lawsuit filed by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The Student Association voted 5 to 1 with seven members absent to approve the new rule and YAF’s chapter on campus was no longer recognized due to its relationship with the parent organization, Young Americans for Freedom.
ADF argues that the policy violates the YAF students’ First and 14th Amendment rights, according to the lawsuit.
“It has been well-established since at least 1972 that affiliation with a national organization is ‘an impermissible basis upon which to deny First Amendment rights’ of association to student organizations at public universities,” the lawsuit reads. “But today, University at Buffalo Staff and the UB Student Association acting under authority from the University have done just that: Defendants have derecognized and barred Young Americans for Freedom from benefits on campus because they are a chapter of a national organization—Young America’s Foundation… Defendants’ national-affiliation ban violates Young Americans for Freedom and its members’ rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”
The decision came shortly after YAF hosted conservative commentator and Daily Wire personality Michael Knowles, according to the lawsuit. The event sparked protests over claims that Knowles wanted to “eradicate” transgender people and resulted in one protester, who was not a student, getting arrested by campus police for “disorderly conduct.”
In the lawsuit, the students alleged that the student association changed the policy because of the Knowles event, and cited a statement from Student Association President Becky Paul-Odionhin about the new policy, saying, “We all know why we’re doing this.”
Due to the chapter’s relationship with YAF, it is no longer able to use university spaces or buildings for events or meetings, fundraise on campus, or access funding from the “Mandatory Student Activity Fee,” according to the lawsuit. As a result, ADF asked the court to rule that the policy is a violation of their right to free speech and assembly.
“Associating with like-minded peers on campus to discuss relevant issues is fundamental to the rights of free speech and exercise that the First Amendment protects,” ADF Senior Counsel Caleb Dalton said in a press release. “But instead of protecting an open and free marketplace of ideas, officials at the University at Buffalo have violated Young Americans for Freedom’s constitutionally protected freedom to assemble and speak.”
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