Student Council to vote on Young Americans for Freedom’s CIO status in January

Following conservative group’s complaint, U.Va. concludes that YAF’s constitution complies with school policy

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Young Americans for Freedom's attorney argued in a recent letter to the University that failing to recognize the group as an official Contracted Independent Organization violated YAF’s constitutional rights and state law. 

Lauren Hornsby | Cavalier Daily

Student Council will propose the University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom be recognized as a Contracted Independent Organization by the council’s Representative Body during its first meeting of the spring semester. The decision comes after the conservative group sent a letter to the University claiming that Student Council violated the YAF’s constitutional rights and state law when previously denying it CIO status. 

The letter dated Dec. 15 was sent last week by YAF’s attorney Casey Mattox and stated that Student Council’s decision to not recognize YAF as a CIO was a violation of free speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution.  

In contrast to the group’s claims, Ty Zirkle, a third-year College student and Student Council’s vice president for organizations, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily that Student Council did not deny YAF recognition of CIO status. 

“The organization’s application has remained in the review process until the organization’s constitution was found to comply with the University-mandated nondiscrimination clause provided to Student Council by UVA Student Activities,” Zirkle said. 

Student Council had made its initial decision to withhold CIO status because it claimed YAF’s membership requirements, which required students to adhere to the conservative values of the Sharon Statement, were a violation of the terms and conditions for CIOs outlined in University policy. 

University Spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn said in an email that Student Council’s decision was “based upon an error in applying the non-discrimination policy,” and that it had requested Student Council “take steps to remedy this as soon as possible.”

Student Council administers the CIO approval process at the University. Some of the benefits of becoming a CIO include the ability to reserve meeting spaces on Grounds and receive Student Activity Fee funding from Student Council. 

Zirkle said Student Council’s decision to propose YAF-UVA be granted CIO status was made in light of the University’s finding “that the language of the constitution does comply with University policy.” After the bill is proposed during its first spring semester meeting Jan. 23, the Representative Body will have to vote in favor of the bill in order for it to pass. 

YAF spokesperson Spencer Brown said that in sending the letter, the group was trying to change University policy to prevent discrimination against all groups.

“It was just plain discrimination against the conservatives in the Young Americans for Freedom chapter who are trying to gain recognition, and so we were calling on the school to recognize the chapter as a full, regular club and to change the policies so that, that way in the future, other students, conservatives or otherwise, wouldn’t be discriminated against because of their viewpoints,” Brown said in an interview. 

Brown said he was pleased with the University’s recognition of the chapter as a remedy of “the problematic policy of that issue.”

“[The decision] shows that the University of Virginia is committed to … free speech and anti-discriminating, or not discriminating against conservatives,” Brown said. 

In the official statement released by the YAF organisation, Mattox also said he was content with the response from the University.

“As an alumnus of Mr. Jefferson’s University, I am very pleased to see that U.Va. has worked quickly to protect the right of all students to associate around their shared beliefs,” the statement read. “I look forward with confidence to the administration’s changes that will ensure neither YAF nor any other students face a similar problem in the future.”

Kevin McMahon, a third-year College student and president of YAF-UVA, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily that YAF was previously recognized as an official CIO, but over time, inactivity had frozen its status. McMahon decided to jumpstart the chapter over this past summer, and said he’s eager to utilize the benefits that are available to CIOs. 

“I'd like to thank the UVA administration for acting so quickly to right this wrong after we brought it to attention,” McMahon said. “UVA has reassured me that it is committed to supporting the First Amendment, and is happy to allow intellectual diversity onto grounds. I and the other Young Americans for Freedom are grateful to UVA, and look forward to being warriors for freedom and advocates for conservatism.”

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