Hagerstown Community College: Political Clubs Denied Freedom of Association

Category: Free Speech

On August 17, 2015, Hagerstown Community College (HCC) student Moriah DeMartino contacted Student Activities Coordinator Heather B. Barnhart to express interest in starting a chapter of the free market advocacy student group Turning Point USA (TPUSA) on campus. Barnhart rejected DeMartino’s application, telling her that DeMartino could instead start a Republican Club on campus, and only if a Democrat Club was formed at the same time. Dean of Student Affairs Jessica A. Chambers later clarified that DeMartino could not start a TPUSA chapter, or even a Republican or Democrat Club, and stated that DeMartino should instead join HCC’s already-existing Political Science Club, which Chambers judged to be sufficient for all politically oriented students. FIRE wrote to HCC on September 11, 2015, reminding HCC of its obligation to its students’ freedom of association rights under the First Amendment and asking that HCC only use narrow, content and viewpoint-neutral criteria when considering student groups’ applications for recognition.