The student senate at Wichita State University voted against recognizing a new chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) in a session held this past Wednesday night, claiming the libertarian organization promotes “hate speech.”
The Sunflower, a student newspaper on Wichita State's campus, reported that the debate centered around the limits of free speech and the role of the student senate in creating an accepting environment on campus.
“Although I am someone who absolutely believes in free speech and activism and being able to speak up, what we have seen from this organization is dangerous,” student senator Sandra Carlo said.
Also opposed to recognizing YAL, Zubair Kahn argued, “if we want to have a libertarian organization on campus, there are other ways to do that.”
However, not all were opposed to the WSU chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. Senator Timothy Dodd, though expressing his intolerance for hate speech, nevertheless voted to give the chapter a chance.
“I want to give this specific chapter of the organization a chance to show that libertarianism as a political philosophy doesn’t have to be pigeon-holed as racist and reactionary,” Dodd said.
Ultimately, the vote ended up 8-16-5, and the resolution failed — YAL will not be allowed on campus. Here's what you need to know about the incident:
What YAL is:
Formed in 2008 at the end of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) is a libertarian organization dedicated to spreading the ideals of liberty on college campuses. With more than 900 chapters across the country, YAL focuses on mobilizing individual chapters to educate the student body about the libertarian philosophy.
However, YAL’s strong opposition of campus free speech limitations, such as regulations on “hate speech” and “safe zones,” has raised questions regarding the safety of allowing this organization on college campuses. This concern has only grown as numerous chapters across the country have decided to host Milo Yiannopoulos on his “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” as he speaks out against feminism and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Note that the national organization has neither endorsed nor condemned the actions of these chapters.
Response to Wichita State's Decision:
Ultimately, Wichita State University's decision has been widely unpopular, and some are predicting upcoming litigation on the ground of free speech infringements. According to Supreme Court precedents, public universities such as Wichita State cannot grant its student body the authority to grant or deny recognition to student groups in a discriminatory manner. Since the university has allowed chapters of the College Democrats and College Republicans onto campus and there are currently no libertarian groups, some are calling this “political censorship.”
In response to this decision, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter the university president, John Bardo, warning that the university's actions are unconstitutional and started a grassroots campaign to pressure the university into action.
According to Ari Cohn, the director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, this is an open-and-shut case against the university.
This isn’t the first time Wichita State has gotten in trouble with YAL and FIRE. The leader of the YAL chapter at Pierce College in California also sued the school after he was forbidden to distribute copies of the U.S. Constitution outside of a designated “free speech zone.”
Lead Image Credit: Jimmy Emerson, DVM via Flickr Creative Commons