A group at Wichita State University that had been denied recognition by the campus’s Student Government Association has won its fight to be a registered student organization.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the Wichita State University Student Government overturned the association’s April 5 decision to deny Young Americans for Liberty the authority to engage in on-campus activism.
YAL, a national group, believes all speech, including hate speech, is protected by the First Amendment. It’s a nonpartisan student group with conservative and libertarian views. At other universities, YAL chapters have invited Milo Yiannopoulos — the former Breitbart tech editor and right-wing provocateur — to speak on campus.
The student government judicial branch voted unanimously that the student association’s initial decision was unconstitutional and muzzled free speech.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Teri Hall, vice president for student affairs at Wichita State, filed the complaint with the student judicial branch about the student association’s decision and spoke against it at a recent student Senate meeting.
“By not passing that resolution, you violated everything you’re supposed to stand for as Student Government,” Hall told the student association members. “You talk about not discriminating, and you discriminated against them.”
YAL had fulfilled the required criteria to be recognized as an official student organization at Wichita State, Hall said. No other student group that met all the requirements had ever been denied, she said.
YAL gained the support of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education — commonly known as FIRE — a free speech advocacy foundation.
FIRE wrote a letter April 7 to Wichita State President John Bardo demanding that he reverse the student association’s decision. FIRE asked Bardo to inform student government that “it cannot engage in viewpoint-based discrimination against prospective student groups.”
FIRE officials said allowing the Wichita State student government to deny the YAL recognition meant that the student association was “engaged in a full-frontal assault on the First Amendment.”
The school’s Supreme Court vote came just days after the FIRE letter was sent.
Ari Cohn, who directs FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, said the student government decision “unconstitutionally denied a student group official recognition because, ironically, the student group supports the right to freedom of speech.”
She said in a statement released Friday that “the Wichita State administration cannot give its student government authority to grant or deny recognition to student groups and then stand idly by when that authority is exercised in a viewpoint discriminatory manner.
Young Americans for Liberty is one of the fastest-growing, pro-liberty student activist organization on America’s college campuses. There are more than 900 YAL chapters and 308,927 youth activists nationwide.