Campus Free Speech

Santa Clara University Student Government Won't Recognize YAF, Says Conservative Speakers Make Campus 'Unsafe'

"The presence of YAF would further marginalize minority students on campus."


Santa Clara University's student government has voted against granting official status to the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), on the grounds that the group's goals—bringing conservative speakers to the California campus—would contribute to an unsafe climate for marginalized students.

"I also think that the presence of YAF would further marginalize minority students on campus and if anything makes minority students feel more unsafe or targeted," said one student senator in a statement.

Another student senator lamented that YAF might bring conservative pundit Ben Shapiro to campus and Shapiro's presence would cause "emotional harm."

The vote was 13–13, which fell short of the needed two-thirds majority to confer formal recognition, according to The College Fix.

Recognized student groups have access to university funding. The school is therefore engaging in viewpoint discrimination as long as it denies YAF this status because of the organization's ideology. This conflicts with the private university's stated commitment to free speech, and so the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is calling on the college to overturn the student government's decision:

When a student government recognizes (or refuses to recognize) student organizations, it exercises authority delegated to it by the college or university. That authority is necessarily circumscribed by the legal commitments made by the institution, and the institution must ensure that its agents do not exceed their authority. That is the case here, and [Santa Clara University]'s leadership must take steps—as it has before, and as its institutional policies expressly permit—to uphold the university's laudable commitment to freedom of expression.