Wichita State Says “No” to Group that Favors Liberty and Free Speech



Even in so conservative a state as Kansas, the universities are largely in the grip of “progressives” who do not care for freedom. Freedom, after all, conflicts with their goals of subordinating individuals to the power of the government – supposedly for the greater good.

That was evidenced recently when Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) sought to establish a chapter on the Wichita State University campus. YAL advocates natural law, individual liberty, personal responsibility, and limited government. Those are the same beliefs that motivated America’s founders – but they frighten today’s leftist students, who happen to have gotten into positions of power.

As we read in this FIRE press release, when student Maria Church presented her application for recognition of a YAL chapter, the Student Government Association voted against it. The exchanges between Church and the student senators who ran the meeting revealed the authoritarian mindset of the senators.

Ms. Church was asked what YAL thinks about “hate speech,” and she replied that while it is deplorable, it is nevertheless protected by the First Amendment. On that point, she is demonstrably correct, as the Supreme Court has never held that the Constitution distinguishes between categories of speech.

Ms. Church was asked what position YAL takes on the supposed need for “safe spaces” on college campuses to which she replied that she did not see why the organization had to have any particular position on that.

She was also asked what YAL thinks about “free speech zones,” which restrict free speech to small areas of a campus, allowing administrators to regulate or prevent it elsewhere. She said that YAL was opposed to that.

A majority of the student senators found her defense of YAL troubling. One said, “We have seen very dangerous statements being said in the name of free speech.” Another pointed to the fact that another campus YAL chapter had invited the controversial and provocative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos (who is gay and dissents from political correctness) to speak.

Clearly, Wichita State did not need to have a chapter of so incorrect and un-progressive group on its campus. Maria Church’s application was denied.

Here’s the problem. The First Amendment does not allow government (including student groups wielding authority) to discriminate against groups or individuals based on their viewpoints.

In the letter he sent to Wichita State’s president John Bardo, Ari Cohn, who heads FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, explained that a public university “cannot give its student government authority to grant or deny recognition to student groups and then stand by when that authority is exercised in a viewpoint discriminatory manner.”

However President Bardo responds, the obvious fact is that an important contingent of his student body simply doesn’t believe in free speech. Maria Church correctly observed, “It is discouraging to see elected student officials opposing the free speech of those who disagree with their political agendas.”

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