The Associated Students of the University of Oregon voted Wednesday night to deny funding for the second time to Young Americans for Liberty’s poker night which gave guns as prizes to winners because the event would be “fostering an un-safe space.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote to the University following the vote, warning them to reverse the decision as not only for moral reasons but for legal. Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) is a student organization that is partially subsidized from mandatory student fees, and the student government is required to distribute funds in a viewpoint-neutral manner.
The student government president, vice president and several senators thought differently when they originally voted November 11, “I am not going to vote yes on this because I think that the ASUO funding an event that gives away free guns…would make students to feel very uncomfortable,” said ASUO Senator Rachel Nicholson.
While some members of the student government had worries about funding the prizes, YAL members assured them that the guns were donated by local gun dealers and they would be transferred to the winners off campus from an FFL dealer in accordance with state and federal laws.
“Liberty Poker Night” is scheduled for November 20 and members were seeking $950 in funding to cover food costs, the room, and equipment rental. The poker theme of the event is clearly to draw attendants, but this fact seemed lost on student government members, some of whom thought it was offensive.
“This is an unsafe space because there are people who are addicted to gambling who would be able to attend.Gambling addiction negatively affects marginalized communities,” AUSO President Helena Schlegel.
One audience member at the meeting also pointed out the that since some members of the campus weren’t old enough to win the prizes the event was in fact “ageist.”
Young Americans for Liberty has had other recent trouble with censorship on campus. On November 10 Leah Andrews, the university’s Director of Marketing and Communications for University Housing, wrote to YAL regarding posters promoting their event, “[u]nless the prizes for the event are no longer firearms the posters won’t be approved since the prize is something that is against our code of conduct.”
YAL resubmitted their proposal for funding to the student government Wednesday night, and were denied funding again, this time the ASUO said it was due in part to a loan they received from an anonymous donor which YAL has to pay back.
“I’m discouraged to see that my fellow students are trying to silence this event due to their vocalized desire to ensure that campus is a safe and comfortable environment. Students should be confronted with opposing ideas and beliefs on campus. They should be challenged. This is how learning takes place,” said Oregon YAL Co-President Thomas Tullis.
FIRE wrote in the letter that it, “is committed to using all of the resources at our disposal to see this matter through to a just conclusion.” It has previously filed lawsuits against universities to success.