University of California - Berkeley YAF v. Napolitano
Twice, in the spring of 2017, and then again in the fall of 2017, Berkeley administrators discriminated against Young America’s Foundation, its speakers, and conservative students on the basis of viewpoint. Twice, Berkeley applied its unwritten, and highly unconstitutional, “High-Profile Speaker Policy” to block conservative speakers from stepping foot onto campus. The school used this policy to impose a 3:00pm curfew on YAF-sponsored lectures, ban advertising, and charge conservative students thousands in “security fees.” For one of our speakers, Berkeley denied her access to on-campus lecture halls altogether.
Then, when YAF sponsored a third speaker for a campus lecture, Berkeley administrators charged conservative students a security fee three-times higher than the fee it charged left-leaning students for hosting Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the same auditorium.
To restore the First Amendment rights of conservative students at UC Berkeley, YAF filed a lawsuit, in federal court, against UC Berkeley and several of its administrators individually – including Janet Napolitano.
Students at the University of Minnesota planned to host New York Times bestselling author Ben Shapiro for a YAF-sponsored campus lecture, only to have their speech suppressed by university administrators. Internal emails obtained through YAF’s Censorship Exposed project revealed top-level administrators’ plans to arbitrarily cap attendance for the Shapiro lecture to 500 students and to move the event from the school’s main campus in Minneapolis to a remote area of campus in St. Paul—known by students as “cow campus.”
School policy unconstitutionally vests school administrators with complete discretion to suppress student speech that is unpopular or disfavored by the university community.
On July 3, 2018, YAF filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the University, in federal court, challenging both the constitutionality the University’s speech policy and its active suppression of student speech.
Kennesaw State University (KSU) has agreed to rescind viewpoint discriminatory policies that it used to unlawfully discriminate against conservative students—denying them equal access to campus resources and punishing them for their speech by levying hefty “security fees.”
The decision comes after the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter at Kennesaw State University, under the leadership of chapter chair Zack Bohannon and with legal representation from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed a First Amendment lawsuit against KSU challenging the school’s discriminatory policies and practice.
Prior to filing suit, it was KSU’s policy for school administrators to classify student organizations in a hierarchical four-tiered system. Student organizations assigned to higher tiers were afforded greater access to school resources, including greater access to the student activity fees that all students pay and are intended to benefit the student body as a whole. No conservative student group was rated higher than the bottom tier.
School policies also gave school administrators unbridled discretion to impose their own bias by levying security fees on student events expressing a different viewpoint. When the KSU YAF chapter hosted New York Times bestselling author Katie Pavlich for a campus lecture last spring, administrators imposed a $320 security fee on the event because they subjectively determined that Ms. Pavlich was too “controversial.”
YAF successfully defended the rights of students at the University of Texas-Austin when university administrators levied a viewpoint discriminatory “security fee” on a group of conservative students for hosting Senator Rick Santorum at a YAF-sponsored campus lecture. Students requested the security services of one UTPD officer for the event; however, the university sent six officers to the event and charged the students for the security services of the additional five officers.
As part of YAF’s Censorship Exposed project, YAF discovered that the University charged students more in security for the Rick Santorum event than it did for any student event in the previous year. YAF also uncovered documents exposing the University’s method of assessing security fees – unconstitutionally basing fees on the content of the speech and the “high profile” reputation of the speaker.
YAF sent a demand letter to the University of Texas-Austin demanding the immediate rescission of the viewpoint discriminatory security fee. The University quickly rescinded the fee and publicly apologized for the error.
YAF successfully defended the rights of students at Virginia Tech when administrators levied hundreds of dollars in a security fee for the YAF chapter’s campus lecture featuring Steven Crowder. Virginia Tech administrators levied the fee after watching Steven Crowder’s videos on YouTube—a viewpoint-motivated assessment.
YAF threatened a lawsuit if the unconstitutional fee was not rescinded. Days later, the University informed YAF that the fee had been rescinded and invited YAF to provide suggestions that would improve the University’s practices pertaining to free speech.
California State University, Los Angeles YAF v. Covino
YAF successfully defended the rights of students at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) after school officials censored a YAF-sponsored student lecture featuring Ben Shapiro. Three days before the Shapiro lecture was scheduled to take place, the university’s president, William Covino, canceled the lecture reasoning that it was “best for our campus community.” When students informed the university of their plans to host Shapiro anyway, university administrators and professors—forming a human chain—physically blocked students from entering a YAF-sponsored campus lecture featuring Ben Shapiro.
Young America’s Foundation, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, filed a First Amendment lawsuit against numerous CSULA officials, including university president William Covino. The case settled after the University promised that it would not engage in act of viewpoint discrimination in the future.
University of Virginia
YAF successfully defended the rights of students at the University of Virginia. The University denied the YAF chapter official recognition as a student organization because the YAF chapter refused to change its constitution and bylaws to allow individuals who disagree with the chapter’s conservative mission to serve in leadership roles. With representation from Alliance Defending Freedom, YAF threatened a First Amendment lawsuit and in doing so caught the attention of the former Governor of Virginia, George Allen, who in response helped apply pressure on UVA administrators to recognize the chapter. Shortly thereafter, UVA recognized the YAF chapter as an official student organization.
Oxnard Union High School District
For more than a year, administrators at Rancho Campana High School (RCHS) refused to recognize the RCHS Young Americans for Freedom chapter, despite repeated attempts by chapter leader and RCHS student Wyatt Germaine. School policy requires student organizations to be supervised by a faculty member. But, every member of the faculty declined Wyatt’s request to supervise the YAF chapter. Without recognized status, the YAF chapter did not have the same privileges as recognized student organizations. Notably, the chapter could not participate in YAF’s 9/11 Never Forget Project on school grounds.
With representation from Freedom X, YAF and Jane Germaine (Wyatt’s mother) sent a demand letter to the principal of Rancho Campana High School threatening a lawsuit if RCHS did not immediately (1) recognize the YAF chapter as an official student organization, and (2) respect Wyatt’s and his classmates’ free speech rights by allowing them to participate in the 9/11 Never Forget Project on campus.
Facing a pending lawsuit, school officials caved just days later notifying Wyatt that both the YAF chapter and the 9/11 Never Forget Project were now approved.
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A Students Best Resource in Promoting Free Speech
If you ask any student whether they support free speech, most will say “Yes.” In fact, a recent poll conducted by Young America’s Foundation revealed that 93% of students agreed that it is important to protect free speech.
However, when pressed further on how far they are willing to defend all speech, no matter how offensive it may be to their sensibilities, the numbers quickly change. More than half of liberal young people, 54%, supported some form of censorship to ensure that no one is offended. A Pew poll found similar results, with 40% of millennials saying they are okay with limiting speech that offends others.These results should frighten anyone who supports freedom, but the results should not surprise anyone familiar with the politically correct atmosphere that has controlled American college campuses for decades.Leftist antagonists, along with their willing accomplices in university administrations, have sought time and again to restrict conservative students’ right to voice their opinions. However, Young America’s Foundation has always pushed back against these heavy-handed administrators and liberal bullies and even challenged laws all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to ensure free speech rights are protected.