Will UVa Squelch its Young Americans for Freedom?

Kevin McMahon with UVa’s Young Americans for Freedom.

The University of Virginia Student Council has denied the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a conservative student group, recognition as an official student organization. The decision effectively disallows YAF from reserving meeting space on the university grounds, advertising at activities fairs, requesting storage space, or applying for student-activity-fee funding through the council.

The premise behind the rejection is that YAF is a “political organization” not open to all. YAF requires members to support the Sharon Statement, a set of philosophical and political statements defining the core principles of the organization.

“Recognized CIOs (contracted independent organizations) cannot restrict students from joining an organization on the basis of political affiliation, which includes limiting membership to students who support the Sharon Statement,” wrote Ty Zirkle, vice president for organizations for the UVa Student Council in a letter to Kevin McMahon, president of YAF-UVA. “Support for the Sharon Statement can absolutely be included in the mission/purpose section of the constitution and will naturally attract interested students, but it cannot be a membership requirement.”

That restriction violates both Virginia state law and the U.S. Constitution, argues M. Casey Mattox, director of the Center for Academic Freedom, in a letter to UVa officials. He cites state code that says:

A religious or political student organization may determine that ordering the organization’s internal affairs, selecting the organization’s leaders and members, defining the organization’s doctrines, and resolving the organization’s disputes are in furtherance of the organization’s religious or political mission and that only persons committed to that mission should conduct such activities (my emphasis).

Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld an interpretation of the First Amendment declaring that “the ability of like-minded individuals to associate for the purpose of expressing commonly held views may not be curtailed.”

Under UVa’s policy, writes Mattox, “if an advocacy group is ‘political,’ as YAF-UVA was here, it may not state its requirements in its own constitution.”

The University of Virginia’s response? Says spokesman Anthony de Bruyn: “The University has received a letter regarding an organization’s interest in status as a Contracted Independent Organization (CIO). We are reviewing the matter.”

The University of Virginia has some 800 student clubs and organizations.

Bacon’s bottom line: I will confess to a major bias on this story. Forty-some years ago, I was a foot soldier of the Young Americans for Freedom at UVa. I can’t remember if we were an officially recognized student organization or not. If so, we certainly didn’t get much Student Council support because I don’t recall that we did anything that entailed spending much money. Whatever the case, I am sympathetic to the aims and principles of the group.

Moreover, I have a second bias: I know what it’s like to be turned down by the UVa Student Council. The one student organization I led during college was a group of 20 or 30 guys who met late every Friday afternoon to play military board games in the Navy ROTC building. Now, this was around 1974 or 1975 when the Vietnam War was winding down and universities were centers of ferocious opposition to the war. We knew we couldn’t go to Student Council and say, hey, we’re with the “War Game Club,” can you give us some money? So, we named ourselves the Historical Simulation Society. As the head nerd, I duly applied for a $50 dispensation from the Student Council so we could buy some new board games. As it happened, the Student Council President was one Larry J. Sabato who back then had long, flowing black hair and, I can tell you, was a lot more radical than he is today as a political science professor. Needless to say, Sabato and the rest of the Student Council saw through our subterfuge and refused to give us one red cent. Our group was one of only two supplicants to get stiffed. Larry and I laugh about it to this day. Anyway, I can feel the YAF’s pain.

Fully cognizant of my biases in the matter, I find it absurd that UVa might withhold recognition to the YAF on the basis of what strikes me as a legalistic technicality — one that likely violates state law and that undeniably vitiates the spirit of the First Amendment. College campuses are hotbeds of radical political activity, and numerous organizations with political missions receive money from student activity fees. Be forewarned, UVa, when you approach the General Assembly looking for state support: Turning down the YAF application will only feed the growing narrative that universities are centers of leftist intolerance unworthy of taxpayer support.

Update: Aargh! I’m getting so old, I can’t even remember when I attended UVa. The original version of this post had dates that were off by four years. (Hat tip: Allen Barringer.)

Update from UVa: Here is added information provided by UVa spokesman Anthony de Bruyn:

The University has carefully reviewed the concerns raised on behalf of students seeking to form a Contracted Independent Organization (CIO) under the name Young Americans for Freedom (YAF).  In November, after consulting with our Student Activities staff, Student Council had requested two changes to the constitution submitted by YAF, consistent with their reading of our non-discrimination policy. When no response was received, the YAF CIO application was temporarily denied pending future resolution of this open issue. The decision by Student Council was not viewpoint based, but rather based upon an error in applying the non-discrimination policy.  The CIO application from YAF was never voted on by the Student Council representative body for final approval or denial.  The University has now requested that Student Council take steps to remedy this as soon as possible.

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15 responses to “Will UVa Squelch its Young Americans for Freedom?”

  1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    All this self righteous posturing and moralizing condemnation from the self proclaimed crown jewel public institution of higher learning founded by Thomas Jefferson in the Commonwealth of Virginia, whose several professors last summer, while shouting shouting obscenities at police officers, played vital rolls in helping to organize and lead the logistical support for a mob of antifa thugs that shut down the court ordered and validated free speech of other citizens in the public square of Charlottesville, Virginia – is this the capstone of President Sullivan’s tenure as leader of the University of Virginia?

  2. Why do they need to waste lawsuit money when DUH … ????
    I would expect that if you have a Muslim student association that Muslims and those who adhere to Muslim culture, values, etc. be running it. I would never think a group was representative of who they advertised to be without that qualification.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    You can have any group you want with any rules you want … you can gather in a lot of different places to conduct your business. Even the KKK can do that.

    But access to resources and facilities paid for with public money and student fees – means those services and facilities are available to those who pay for them and a group cannot institute it’s own discriminatory rules for services and facilities it does not own and are there with permission of the owners who are taxpayers and students.

    If you let one group discriminate based on their rules – what keeps the KKK from getting those facilities and actively discriminating against others – on facilities they do not own?

    individuals and groups always have full amendment rights including the right to not associate with those they don’t like – but on their own dime and own property – not property owned by the public.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Larry – the Constitution and Bill of Rights prevents a government agency from making rules that exclude people on a n0n-viewpoint-neutral basis. And since students pay fees to UVA for access to campus facilities, they have a presumptive right to use those facilities on the same terms and conditions as all other students and student groups.

      Absent threats of violence by student members, student groups representing the KKK, Black Panthers, Communists, etc., etc. should have the right to use public buildings at UVA and elsewhere.

  4. Prof. Sabato was SC President in ’73-74. In ’71-72 Tom Collier was President, having defeated a white German Shepherd named Blitz for the job. That Spring was the occasion of the Inflated Academical Village on the Lawn, consisting of a dozen clear plastic structures erected in front of the Pavilions to symbolize the overcrowding sure to result from recently announced increases in the undergraduate student body. There were also speeches, including one that evening by a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, an undergraduate, which provoked some head scratching over what sort of speech on the Grounds was tolerable from someone who otherwise had every right to be there. Several members of the SC managed to escort Mr. Collier to the podium and placed the only working mic in his hand, while we (yes I was one of them) led/dragged the previous speaker away mid-sentence. Was this censorship? Was this vigilante enforcement of the SC’s commitment to Mr. Shannon that no harm would come to anyone on the Lawn that evening? Was this personal disgust at our fellow student? Surely a mix of all three! A few days earlier the SC’s activities allocation committee, which disbursed funds from the Student Activities Fee to applicant organizations, and which I chaired that Spring, had rejected the request of this young man’s club to receive University funding; they were known to be still upset about that, and we about them, so we did what we thought was right.

    There was no follow-up, then or later. I wonder what would happen if students took similar action to police themselves today?

  5. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    Dear Jim,

    I, too, was a member of an “historical simulation” club, only at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Fairfax County. There was also Dungeons & Dragons that some students did more informally. This was 1980-86. Thanks for cluing me in on the euphemistic name, though in retrospect this was the time of the “Vietnam Syndrome.” I was called a “war freak” by students due to my interest in military history and matters back then. Ironically, this same area of Fairfax has a fair number of military, especially officers’ families. Ironically, too, I am very much an anti-interventionist in foreign policy and am sickened whenever I read about battles, wars, etc.

    The Left nowadays is thoroughly totalitarian. There must never be “gun control” in this country, else we will be subjected to far worse than bans and 24/7 ridicule and invective in the media. I believe that widespread gun-ownership in this country is a major check on the Left’s actions, helping to “keep them honest,” so to speak. The only “gun-control” that they believe in is where they, through their control of institutions, especially governments at various levels, have all the arms, and everyone else, does not. This is why, in spite of mass-shootings of innocents, the majority of Americans adamantly oppose efforts to restrict gun-ownership. People see what “their” elite is about, and they don’t trust them at all, but fear them. And rightfully so, these wannabe Stalins.



  6. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    Dear Jim,

    At George Mason I think there was a “Society for Historic Anachronisms”, i.e. padded weapons and armor group that would get together and “bop” and “jab” one another and yell with gusto. There were some “eager beavers” who would put their efforts on public display. Not being exactly “linebacker” material, I chose not to participate, but at least they had some fun as participants as did, vicariously, the spectators!



  7. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    Dear Larry,

    How many “pro-Life Democrats” and “traditional sexual morality progressives” are there in the Young Democrats’ club at UVA? Hmm? If there are any, they must be awfully uncomfortable and hemmed in, surely kept from becoming officers and speakers in it. Oh, those tolerant “Liberals”! They are so generous to tolerate those with whom they already agree!



  8. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    Dear All,

    Reed Fawell shared this in an e-mail. It’s quite good. https://www.firstthings.com/article/2018/01/the-zealous-faith-of-secularism Also, the Conservative Libertarian, Lew Rockwell carried this other article on his site about the heretical religious origins of the Left: https://www.lewrockwell.com/2017/12/bionic-mosquito/the-socialism-of-the-middle-ages/ The forward of the book from which it is drawn is by Solzhenitsyn.



  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    Can groups with exclusionary rules bar participation from people who have paid fees or taxes to provide the facility the group is using?

    Are policies with regard to that issue – consistent – with regard to publicly-owned facilities .. Colleges, cities, k-12 school systems? Probably not.

    Can the KKK have a meeting at a College venue and exclude participation of those that paid student fees that fund the facility?

    Can a Veterans group exclude non-veterans from a meeting at the local library?

    Can a Religious group bar those that have not found “Jesus” at a K-12 school gym they are renting?

    So who sets the rules for use of publicly-funded facilities and on what basis?

    sounds like an icky legal issue and I’m quite sure it’s going to find it’s way into the courts and probably up the ladder to SCOTUS.

  10. djrippert Avatar

    Don’t all groups have some sort of exclusionary rules? If I show up at the chess club with my Chinese Checkers set wouldn’t I be asked to leave and join the Chinese Checkers Club?

    Why are funds spent on any student groups? Take all the money spent on the 800 student groups and use it to lower tuition for everybody, if only $2 per semester.

    Why do Conservanerds in groups like the YAF always appear in suits carrying briefcases? Almost nobody wears suits or carries a briefcase anymore. If they want to look like real executives they’d wear jeans with a button down oxford cloth shirt and a sports coat. No tie. Maybe they all aspire to be undertakers.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Rippert –

      Your comments stun. Yes, what the damn hell have these universities do with this at all, nothing legitimate, for sure, they can’t even manage their own affairs, much less that of others, so why allow them to ruin their students? Your comments are brilliant: out of the blue original, unconventional, radical even and eccentric, they slap the thoughtful reader hard across the face, turning him around, then march him off and a new and far more productive direction that will change his world.

      Meanwhile, for the vast majority of us today, those of us who have lost the ability to read thoughtfully, those who have lost the ability to assemble your words within the weave and woof of our experience, knowing and learning, and those of us who have so lost the ability to embed your words within a context meaningful to them, one that synthesizes your assertions and ideas into an altogether new understanding that will empower them to take action that will changes their world for the better – another words for most all college students today, and for those of us who have gone to college since 1969, and thus those of us who have been so disabled by today’s systems of education – particularly those disabled finally and fatally by our nations “elite colleges – for all of these of us blind and ignorant brutes, we sail blissfully on totally unaware, happily at 10,000 feet above your ideas, just as ignorant as ever before, undaunted by your common sense, blind zombies useless, if not hazardous to ourselves, in dark ignorance.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        This explains why so many of UVa. students and faculty played such key rolls in the savage events of last spring and summer in Charlottesville Virgina, that unlawfully violated the court sanctioned rights of free speech of their fellow American citizens in the public squares of that city.

        This is also why the Administration and faculty of UVA mislead us, along with us the entire nation, with their own public statements as to the facts, meanings, and consequences of those events, in a series of false statements that were made without exception or objection by anyone in power or authority at UVA.

        This is not bombast. It’s fact. Read the Report of the Hunton and William attorney for the details, all easily read, understood and plain to see. Why will those details and conclusions not be publically acknowledged? Why will they not be discussed publicly – either explained and justified, or apologized for and corrected – and why will the participants in this unlawful conduct not be held accountable? And if they are not, then why are these events not those of fascist or Stalinist state, or one on its way there.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      re: ” Don’t all groups have some sort of exclusionary rules?

      Perhaps a subtle point but do clubs phrase their purpose by saying what their purpose is and who might want to be part of them… or do such clubs say explicitly ” the following types of people are not allowed”.

      So yes… you could show up with chinese checkers and get some stares and perhaps some unfriendly words …but would they be calling campus security to usher you out?

      Would campus security actually have a list of all groups on campus and for each group – the kinds of people the group does not want there and campus security are allowed to remove?”.

      So you might think the above is silly but if you think so… tell me how it would worth otherwise – i.e the idea that groups could legitimately remove those it had stipulated in it’s rule to not be allowed to be there.

      None of this would be a problem if such a group met on private property and had signs that stipulated that your presence there is contingent on the group accepting you or otherwise the municipal police would be called to arrest you for trespassing.

      This whole issue falls into the netherworld of publicly-owned facilities… and who has access and who does not – and can groups who are allowed access , in turn, deny access to others that do not subscribe to the principles of the group.

      For instance, can a Library provide a meeting room to the local KKK and that group, in turn, stipulate that those who will not take a loyalty oath to the group be denied access… and it would be enforced by calling local police to remove…arrest? the individuals who came to the meeting but would not take their oath?

      These are messy questions, no doubt, but hardly the apocalyptic destruction of civilization or government as we know it.

      We do have a well functioning govt with 3 branches.. and the written laws do tend to lay out the boundaries and when those boundaries are felt to be too vague or not clear.. we go back and work on them.

      Groups are allowed to exclude participation… on private property.. on public property – not just colleges – it gets a bit more murky. Can a public space deny access to certain kinds of people ? can it be denied to racists? Nope. Can racists obtain permission to use a room and then deny access to the targets of their racism? hmmmm .. i.e. KKK gets the room and posts a sign that says No blacks or Jews.. you will be ejected”?

  11. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Below Jim’s post “Demanding Truth from Those in Power” published on this Website August 17 long before the Hunton and Williams Report on the terrible events of last spring and summer, I wrote this:

    UVA has been flooding my in box with emails for more than a week. Each UVA email says the same thing over and over again in slightly altered form as if a contrived Madison Avenue advertising campaign:

    Namely, Urgent protestations, announcements, proclamations and claims from UVa.’s President, UVa.’s Rector, UVa.’s Alumni Association, UVa.’s Miller Center, UVa. Magazine and UVa. Daily and now from student leaders, all shouting almost the same thing:

    “We have been invaded by the evil of white nationalists and white supremacist terrorism. But we will not be intimated and we stand in solidarity and virtue instead. Hate has no place here. We choose Love.”

    That is the tenor of the main message. The underlying message is also clear and unambiguous, namely that:

    UVa., an innocent victim, has found the devil it so desperately needs to deflect attention away from itself – and onto more white men to demonize instead – this time Fascists and Neo-Nazi white supremacists from out of town. UVA thus grabs the perfect target to stand in solidarity against, and to hate, so as to falsely claim to heal the violation of UVa.’s virtuous and loving community, while UVA compounds and deepens the problem instead.

    How easy it is to hate white fascists neo-Nazi white supremacists. I want to hate them too, who does not? But where is the wisdom and maturity in that?

    How easy and convenient it is to claim the violation of one’s innocence by the evil white man in Charlottesville. How good and reassuring of one’s own virtue it is to hate the Other. Particularly during these feverish times in C’ville Virginia, and all over the nation. It’s the 1930’s in Germany all over again, this time playing out on the Grounds of Mr. Jefferson’s University.

    How habit forming it was then and is here now to hate and demonize others rather than to understand and forgive and to confront other harsh facts that compounded this tragedy, including one’s own faults that require serious introspection and correction. How easy it is to avoid introspection and self- examination by holding endless mass torch lit rallies to build group emotional solidarity with the thousands of vulnerable and malleable young students in your care instead of doing the hard work of effective leadership.

    This running away from reality and this constant circling of wagons against the OTHER, this closing of a university’s collective mind – this is the sure sign of an unhealthy community dependent on mass hysteria to hold itself together against adversity and different opinions and kinds of people.

    Making it worse is that those who are tasked to instruct and lead UVA students are manipulating their students instead. Imagine it. The people whose sacred obligation at UVA is teach their student’s introspection, rational thought, and the rich complexities of their past, and thereby tasked to encourage their students’ emotional and spiritual growth, these professors and Administrators and Board are actively engaged in doing precisely the reverse, turning their students back into ill tempered and overly wrought children unable to confront their rightful future.

    I am reminded of the Jackie controversy. All its pain, deceit, and confusion.

    The Jackie controversy, best I can discern, was born and nurtured within the hot house of the now chronic hysteria at UVa. Back then, in 2014, UVa. leaders also madly rushed out onto the Grounds to proclaim their solidarity with their students by demonizing a group of UVa. students. That time it was WHITE FRATERNITY BOYS. Thus UVa.’s leaders hoped to shift all the blame for Jackie’s violation onto an ENTIRE group on campus. One they thought they could easily demonize so as to avoid confronting the real problems at UVa., and feed their own twisted bias at the same time, while escaping all responsibility for their own negligence that in substantial part had caused and then fueled the controversy in the first place.

    What were those real but hidden problems? The hysteria, particularly among young women students, brought on directly by a rampant hook-up sex culture that had infected UVa.’s student body for decades. A plague that UVa. leadership had refused to confront and deal with for decades.

    Now it is all happening again. This chronic failure of mature courageous leadership to see, appreciate, understand, and properly deal with the real issues that afflict Mr. Jefferson’s academic village. The deep seated problems that UVA’s leadership has not only allowed to infect, but has too often encouraged to feaster, for so long to the great detriment of its students.

    It is all quite remarkable.

    UVa. still cannot honestly confront its problems. Instead its leaders manipulate their own students – young men and women who struggle daily to learn how the think clearly for themselves so that they might stand up as strong and independent young adults, young people who have been liberated from hysteria’s self destructive and childish acts.

    And now, here this time, it happens all over again. For example:

    Why does UVa. hide the disorderly group of students who, yelling obscenities, pushed and shoved their way into a Board of Visitors meeting recently, demanding that Thomas Jefferson’s statute be removed from the Grounds of UVa? Why no consequences for this mob? Or for the professors who taught them? Or the endless obsessive wailing and preening over slavery ended by a Civil War that killed on 600,000 Americans 150+ years ago. Is hate or twisted versions of history being preached in the classrooms at UVA?

    Instead of asking these questions and acting like effective leaders must, UVa. officials fired one of the police officers who quelled the disturbance. What was his offense? Best I can tell, his offense was that he was a white man security guard who uttered the words “Make America Great Again.”

    Wake up UVa!

    What do those recent events in and outside your board room have to do with last weekend’s riot, including their impact on the local police, as well as on your own students who surely were involved in the fracas.

    Love, virtue, understanding and clear thinking is not happening in Charlottesville. Nor is it happening at UVa. Where are its leaders?

    Why can’t they and their students act like the grownups did in Charleston, South Carolina. Recall the white kid who went to a black church and prayed with the minister and members of the congregation before murdering them. And that this followed the terrible and unjustified shooting of the black man in the park by the policeman. Recall the grace, courage, honesty and maturity shown by everyone there, despite this horrible hate crime in one case, and what appeared at best to be gross negligence in the other.

    “For leadership we turn, as we always do anyway, to each other – to thinkers and respected colleagues, religious figures and neighbors. After the church shootings in Charleston, S.C. two years ago, the great and immediate moral leaders were the victim’s families whose words at the shooters bond hearing spread throughout the country within 24 hours. “I forgive you. We are praying for you.” It was the authentic voice of American Christianity, of Wednesday night Bible study, of mercy and self-sacrifice. It quieted the soul of the nation: We’ll be Okay. This is who we really are. Those bereaved relatives never quite got the recognition and thanks they deserved. Their love saved the day.” By Peggy Noonan, published this Saturday morning in Opinion section of WSJ, August 19, 2017.

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