Washington and Lee U. Tells College Republicans to Stop Advocating for Youngkin in VA Gov. Race
“I was shocked when I found out that we couldn’t disseminate campaign materials on campus”
Isn’t this kind of the whole point of belonging to a group like the College Republicans? The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has gotten involved in this case.
From the FIRE blog:
Washington & Lee to College Republicans: Stop advocating for candidate Glenn Youngkin in tight Virginia governor race
The College Republicans at Washington & Lee University were caught red-handed. Their transgression? Advocating for a political candidate.
Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education again calls on the university — which didn’t think its students’ rights were important enough to respond when FIRE first raised the issue privately — to immediately clarify that it will allow student groups to openly support political candidates.
“I was shocked when I found out that we couldn’t disseminate campaign materials on campus,” said College Republicans President Lillian Gillespie. “I hope that publicizing this story gives students on both sides of the aisle more agency and liberty.”
On Sept. 12, the W&L College Republicans set up its booth for the college’s annual activities fair. Given that Virginia’s elections are fast approaching on Nov. 2, the group displayed campaign materials in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin.
During the fair, Director of Student Activities Kelsey Goodwin told the group that the display violated university policy and the College Republicans had to remove all materials endorsing political candidates. Goodwin cited the fact that W&L is a tax-exempt organization that cannot endorse political figures.
That’s true. W&L itself cannot endorse candidates. But its students can.
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.
But supporting and advocating for all kinds of Marxist groups is permissible?
Groups, yes. Candidates, according to the Director of Student Affairs’s understanding, no. She seems to have been working on the assumption that since the activities fair is an official university event, the individual clubs’ displays are university speech. That’s incorrect, and if she ever bothers asking the university’s lawyer she’ll learn so. But if her assumption were correct then her conclusion would be correct too. Your objection would only be correct if the College Democrats were at the same event campaigning for McCauliffe, and weren’t similarly told not to. The Republicans don’t seem to have been told not to campaign on their own time.
I would imagine that an empirically minded and language-focused W & LU College Republican is already feeling vindicated by the fact — yes? — that the relevant, politically directing, state-related wording of the article cited by the university’s Director of Student Activities Kelsey Goodwin, whether express or implied, in no instance applies to W & LU students and their otherwise constitutionally protected, free-speech activities.
And if already determined as such, the university should be sued for damages, obviously intended by their bad-faith, official action, and incurred by College Republicans and the university’s reputation on the whole, saying, in effect, “Until you succeed in abolishing the US Constitution’s First Amendment, don’t go where you went against us — or, for that matter, any campus-student group — unless you want to pay again.”
Just a non-lawyer’s, but very concerned realist’s two cents.
I’m not sure what you mean here, but you should be aware that this is a private university, so it’s not bound by the first amendment. And it is bound by the rules for a 501(c)(3), which means that anyone speaking for the university is not allowed to endorse a candidate in an election. They may of course do so in their private capacity, but she seems to have been under the mistaken impression that individual clubs’ booths at an official university event constitute university speech.
In the only sense that really matters, sadly, you’re right (and thanks for the pointer). Perhaps private higher education suffers a good-faith creativity deficit, whereby the spirit of political free speech and intellectual freedom can be supported and promoted, with student-intellects on both sides of the race can practice and hone their craft before the university community. Is on-campus, political debate entertained at W & L? I’ll bet not — and not at most, both private and public US schools today.