The student senate at Santa Clara University in California twice now has rejected the application of Young America’s Foundation (YAF), a conservative student group seeking official university recognition. Obtaining official recognition for any student club typically means it will have access to a share of student activity fees, campus facilities and communications, which in turns allows it to hold events with speakers and messages of its choosing.
The student senators are the gatekeepers for reviewing applications for student group recognition at Santa Clara. They are also quite liberal, and made no attempt to hide it. When the senate rejected YAF’s application, it did so even though YAF met the objective criteria for recognition. In addition, the university’s lawyer advised the senators they could not reject YAF for ideological reasons, which would amount to “viewpoint discrimination” under California law.
What’s worse, the university’s administration decided to turn a blind eye to the action of the student senate when YAF appealed the decision to Vice Provost Jeanne Rosenberger, who wrote in a letter response to YAF: “I reviewed the record and found that the record is insufficient to establish that the denial of recognition was based on YAF’s political opinion. As a result, I have chosen not to intervene.”
“Insufficient?” After senators openly condemned popular speakers at YAF events such as Ben Shapiro, a conservative pundit? And labeled Shapiro “one of the most Islamophobic people?” And claimed that YAF causes “emotional harm” to the LGBTQ community?
The university’s lawyer, Bridget Colbert, warned the student senate that under California law, even private universities such as Santa Clara cannot refuse to recognize clubs based on their speech, but her legal advice fell on deaf ears. The liberal activists in the senate seemed intent on punishing the YAF club for the alleged sins of Shapiro and others, whose speeches have infuriated campus leftists wherever he appears.
The Vice Provost’s actions in sidestepping the controversy reveal who is really running the university, and it isn’t the adults. Rather than act as the voice of reason for the university by following the advice of her own lawyer and putting an end to the blatant viewpoint discrimination against YAF, she chose to duck and cover.
That hasn’t worked well for other colleges who have suffered sharp declines in enrollment after prospective students and their parents realize that leftist mobs are in charge of deciding who gets to exercise First Amendment rights on campus.
These types of situations haven’t ended well for the universities involved. Once the lawsuits begin, they quickly see the error of their ways as well as their potential liability.
Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail at Santa Clara University before the lawyers show up.
Photo from scu.edu