Wichita State University: Student Government Denies Recognition to Libertarian Group Because It Defends Free Speech

Category: Cases, Free Speech
Schools: Wichita State University

On April 5, 2017, Wichita State University’s Student Government Association (SGA) denied official recognition to a prospective chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) based on its views, after nearly an hour of debate. The SGA began its meeting by questioning YAL president Maria Church on the group’s beliefs and political stances. When debating the resolution to recognize YAL, the only topic discussed was the expression of YAL’s national parent organization and the actions of YAL chapters at other universities. SGA senators repeatedly advocated against recognizing the chapter on the grounds that YAL (correctly) believes that the First Amendment protects “hate speech,” that other chapters have invited Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on campus, and that the national YAL organization has not effectively denounced ”hate speech.” SGA members called YAL a “hate group” and claimed that its presence on campus would pose a threat to other students.

On April 7, FIRE wrote to Wichita State University demanding that the university reverse the SGA’s unconstitutional viewpoint-based decision. Following FIRE’s letter, WSU Vice President for Student Affairs Teri Hall petitioned the SGA’s judicial branch to overturn the SGA’s decision. On April 12, the Supreme Court of the Wichita State University Student Government held that the refusal to recognize YAL violated its members rights, and granted the group official recognition.