Washington and Lee University: Student Groups Prohibited from Displaying Campaign Materials


Washington and Lee University

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Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

On September 12, 2021, a Washington and Lee administrator told the university’s chapter of the College Republicans that it could not display campaign materials for Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin while tabling at a student activities fair. The university justified its stance by claiming that its status as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization restricts the university’s political activities. FIRE wrote to W&L to explain that the university’s 501(c)(3) status does not restrict the political activities of its student groups, as students’ political speech is on their own behalf, not on the university’s behalf. After twice reiterating to the College Republicans that it may not display campaign materials, W&L revised the policy on January 14, making clear that students may engage in political activity as private individuals.