Williams College: Student Group Denied Recognition for Pro-Israel Viewpoint

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Williams College

On April 23, 2019, Williams College’s student government, the College Council, voted to deny Registered Student Organization status to prospective student group Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) because of the group’s pro-Israel viewpoint. Recognition was denied to WIFI even though it had complied with all College Council Requirements, making WIFI the first club in over a decade to be denied recognition. In a statement, Williams President Maud Mandel wrote that she was “disappointed” with the group’s decision and promised that WIFI could operate on campus without recognition from the College Council, but the Council is responsible for distributing student fees to the groups it recognizes. FIRE wrote to Mandel on May 15 to warn that a college that commits to freedom of expression must do more when an agent acting on its behalf violates that commitment. In response, Williams notified FIRE that WIFI had been recognized through a “a parallel path” to registered student organization status.