Conservative Group Scores Victory After Legal Pressure Forces University To Approve Controversial Event

(Screenshot/YouTube/Purdue University)

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comment from Alliance Defending Freedom and the College Republican chapter at Purdue University. 

Purdue University approved a student group’s event featuring a conservative commentator after it received a legal demand letter warning that failure to permit the event could result in further action, the New Guard reported.

The Indiana university approved Daily Wire commentator Michael Knowles’ speech, hosted by the College Republican chapter and sponsored by Young America’s Foundation (YAF), after Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group, sent a warning letter on Wednesday that the school could be in violation of the First Amendment, according to the New Guard. The university originally told the student organizers to stop advertising the event because it was not officially approved, despite having signed a contract in February agreeing to the event. (RELATED: ‘Quite Repulsive’: Students Slam Dem Lawmakers Who Demanded University Cancel Conservative Speaker Events)

Knowles spoke at the University of Buffalo on March 9, drawing a crowd of protestors outside of the venue during which one individual was arrested. The backlash is largely in response to his Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) speech delivered earlier this month, during which he called to eradicate transgenderism.

Purdue University first requested a meeting with the student organizers to address “roadblocks” ahead of the event before granting approval, and then scheduled a follow-up meeting two days before the speech, according to ADF’s letter. The school also ordered the chapter pay $5,253 in total security fees before approval could be granted, contradicting the contract which reportedly read that Purdue would be responsible for security wands and personnel.

“The University’s policies and its application as described raises serious legal concerns,” the letter read. “First, the security fee assessment against [Purdue University College Republicans] violates the First Amendment’s prohibitions against viewpoint discrimination and the heckler’s veto. Second, the security fee assessment violates the University’s contract. Third, the viewpoint discrimination via ‘unbridled discretion.'”

“We are grateful that Purdue University leadership quickly corrected course when this matter was brought to their attention and recognized that YAF and College Republicans have every right to hold their event on campus without additional restrictions,” Phil Sechler, ADF senior counsel, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “It is unfortunate that these roadblocks stifled the students’ ability to advertise this event for so long, but we are grateful for the university’s quick righting of this wrong and we look forward to YAF and College Republicans holding a successful, well attended, and educational event with Michael Knowles next Thursday.”

Purdue University notified students hours after the event was approved, the New Guard reported. It will also pay the security costs, YAF Spokesman Michael McGonigle told the DCNF.

“We appreciate Purdue’s commitment to free speech and look forward to hosting an excellent event next week at the University,” he said.

Knowles’ speech will be part of YAF’s Logan Family Lecture Series.

“Our club is happy that Purdue, particularly Provost Patrick Wolfe, ultimately recognized the importance of both freedom of speech and expression as well as honoring their contractual obligations, deciding to grant approval for this event to occur,” Spencer Johnson, PUCR PR and communications director, told the DCNF. “After all we have gone through to ensure this event occurs and is successful, we hope that members of the Purdue community also recognize the importance of the rights protected by the First Amendment and the importance of defending them. We also want this event to remind our peers of the importance of having opposing view points on campus and in life to generate the healthy debate that is the cornerstone of our Republic.”

The Purdue Graduate Student Government approved an emergency bill on Wednesday to condemn the upcoming event and announce support for the LGBTQ+ campus community, according to the student newspaper The Exponent.

Purdue did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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