Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) filed a federal lawsuit last week against the University of California for refusing club recognition status to the YAL chapter at the University of California, Berkeley. The decision by school officials for refusal is based on the assumption that YAL is too similar to other organizations currently represented on campus.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys representing the chapter further explain in the lawsuit that the university has historically approved many other student groups that appear to be similar, such as “Cal Berkeley Democrats” and “Students for Hillary at Berkeley,” “Progressive Student Association” and “Socialist Alternative at Berkeley.” Therefore, it is clear that UC Berkeley selectively applies these ‘similarity’ rules only when it offends or threatens the predominant ideology. (RELATED: Mortified Social Justice Warriors Vow Not To Tolerate Conservative Group On Campus)
YAL is a national network of students who share a mutual respect for freedom, the United States Constitution, and the natural rights of life, liberty and property. Because UC-Berkeley has excluded YAL from Registered Student Organization (RSO) status and all the benefits that accompany it, the group cannot reserve space, invite speakers, or access the pool of funds their own tuition covers. The funds allocated to the RSOs and other campus activities under the “Berkeley Campus Fee” are not available to the YAL chapter.
By denying the YAL chapter at UC Berkeley official RSO status, this public university is violating the students’ First Amendment rights to free expression and protection under the U.S. Constitution. As President of YAL, it is absurd to think that other Berkeley groups are lighting the campus on fire and throwing rocks through windows, but YAL’s efforts to peaceably promote the message of liberty are being shunned by university administrators. The YAL Chapter at UC Berkeley followed all of the steps necessary to apply for RSO status and submitted the application before the deadline.
Historically, universities and its administrations encouraged the free exchange of ideas, empowered students to learn, and challenged students with new principles and ideas in order to help them develop their own beliefs. How can that be done when the university is dictating which groups can assemble and which groups cannot assemble? Ironically, Berkeley’s name was once synonymous with free speech (recall the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s). Fast-forward 50 years, the university is now concerned with coddling students away from challenging viewpoints.
In recent years, our nation’s college campuses have become a key battleground in the fight for free speech. In California alone, YAL chapters have encountered several obstacles. At Pierce Community College in Los Angeles, student Kevin Shaw was told he could not hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution outside of the 616 square foot free speech zone on campus. This case caught the attention of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice this fall as an incident that directly violates the First Amendment.
It is the height of hubris to think that a college administrator or a public university can create rules and regulations that supersede the U.S. Constitution. Likewise, the same college administrator cannot restrict the students’ right to free expression, as protected by the First Amendment.
Our educational leaders, as well as our political leaders, have drifted away from our Constitutional principles. In filing this lawsuit, I am proud to say YAL is taking a stand against these unconstitutional policies by which the university took it upon itself to sequester certain viewpoints because they were deemed to be “too similar.” We ask: What are the determining factors used to evaluate similarity? Who gets to decide which viewpoint is expressed and why?
One in five millennials, or 20 percent, identify as libertarian. They should have an opportunity to assemble on any public campus in America.
UC Berkeley administrators pride themselves on creating an accepting and diverse environment; however, their decision to block a pro-Constitution, pro-liberty student group reveals that diversity doesn’t include ideology. The censoring must end in order to facilitate the free and open exchange of ideas, a percept that is central to the very definition of a university.
Cliff Maloney Jr. is the President of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a nonprofit, youth organization based in Arlington, VA that boasts over 900 college chapters across the United States.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.