University of Pennsylvania: Hunting, Archery, and Shooting Student Group Denied Registration Over Viewpoint and University COVID-19 Disruptions


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Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

On January 7, 2021, the University of Pennsylvania informed the Hunting, Archery, and Shooting student club — denied registration since March 2020 due to the “nature of the group’s mission and potential group activities” — that due to COVID-19, Penn would not consider registering the group “until . . . normal in-person operations” resume. FIRE wrote to Penn on February 2, explaining that the university’s refusal inappropriately burdens the group’s ability to exercise the expressive and associational rights promised by the university.  After Penn again refused, FIRE sent a second letter on March 17, countering that Penn may not deny the rights of registration to a student group that has not violated any COVID-19 rules and has pledged to follow all university policies. On March 18, Penn again refused, citing the pandemic’s impact on university operations. 

In April, with help from FIRE Legal Network attorney Patricia Hamill, the group began negotiating a path to registration with Penn, culminating in the group attaining registration on April 28.