A Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter and several students at the University at Buffalo (UB) have initiated a legal action against the school’s Student Association, claiming that their chapter was expelled from campus after the association prohibited student groups from affiliating with national organizations.
In March, the Student Association implemented a policy change that disallowed student chapters from joining national organizations in order to maintain official recognition on campus, with exceptions limited to “Academic, Engineering, or Sports Councils, and clubs whose sole purpose is to engage in inter-collegiate competition,” as stated in the lawsuit filed by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The Student Association voted 5 to 1, with seven members absent, to approve the new regulation, resulting in the loss of recognition for YAF’s chapter due to its affiliation with the parent organization, Young Americans for Freedom.
ADF argues that this policy violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the YAF students, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states, “It has been well-established since at least 1972 that affiliation with a national organization is ‘an impermissible basis upon which to deny First Amendment rights’ of association to student organizations at public universities. But today, University at Buffalo Staff and the UB Student Association, acting under authority from the University, have done just that: Defendants have derecognized and barred Young Americans for Freedom from benefits on campus because they are a chapter of a national organization—Young America’s Foundation… Defendants’ national-affiliation ban violates Young Americans for Freedom and its members’ rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”
The decision to implement the policy change reportedly came shortly after YAF hosted conservative commentator and Daily Wire personality Michael Knowles, which sparked protests.
According to the lawsuit, the students allege that the student association modified the policy in response to the Knowles event, citing a statement from Student Association President Becky Paul-Odionhin, who remarked, “We all know why we’re doing this.”
As a consequence of their relationship with YAF, the chapter is no longer permitted to utilize university spaces or buildings for events or meetings, conduct fundraising activities on campus, or access funding from the “Mandatory Student Activity Fee,” as outlined in the lawsuit. Consequently, ADF has asked the court to declare the policy as a violation of their right to free speech and assembly.
A university spokesperson said the school would not be commenting on pending litigation.