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Lawsuit: University Threatened to Derecognize Conservative Student Organization for Inviting Michael Knowles

Lawsuit: University Threatened to Derecognize Conservative Student Organization for Inviting Michael Knowles

The conservative commentator came to the University at Buffalo to discuss his views on feminism but doubled down on his call for transgenderism to be “eradicated from public life.”

The University at Buffalo chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (UB YAF) has sued the University at Buffalo Student Association (SA) after a revised rule threatened the club’s derecognition. The SA revised the rules for recognizing student clubs “approximately two weeks after Plaintiffs’ hosted an event with Michael Knowles that garnered much attention and protests on campus,” according to the lawsuit.

The revised rule bars some student clubs, including UB YAF, from “be[ing] a chapter of or otherwise part of any outside organization.” UB YAF is affiliated with the national YAF and owes its existence, including its right to use the YAF name, to its contract with the national YAF, according to the complaint.

“Without a contract with Young Americas Foundation, UB Young Americans for Freedom cannot exist as the organization it was formed to be,” the complaint argues.

The revised rule, however, exempts “clubs in the Academic, Engineering, or Sports Councils, and clubs whose sole purpose is to engage in inter-collegiate competition.” Determination of whether a club belongs to one of the “Academic, Engineering, or Sports Councils” is “by the SA Vice President,” according to the SA’s New Club Recognition Policy and the complaint. The SA’s Special Interest Council page lists UB YAF as a special-interest group.

Update: “The policy violates the First Amendment because it treats some groups differently than others,” Caleb Dalton told Legal Insurrection. The senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom continued, “[o]ther organizations with similar purposes are still allowed to be chapters of outside organizations and receive official recognition and have access to funding, meeting space, and other resources. This disparate treatment is clear, and we hope the university will correct course.”

The SA gave “all existing SA-recognized clubs” until May 17, 2023, to comply with the revised rule. The SA later granted an extension until May 31, 2023, for student clubs to comply. The SA then granted a second extension until June 9, 2023, for compliance according to an undated document created June 2, 2023, and uploaded to SA’s Senate Meeting Minutes page.

The complaint alleges “Defendants’ national-affiliation ban violates Young Americans for Freedom and its members’ rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution” because of the “unbridled discretion” SA staff have “to determine which organizations are eligible to affiliate with a national organization.”

The complaint further alleges constitutional violations because the SA adopted the revised rules in a manner “targeting Plaintiffs and their views,” citing a purported statement from the Student Body President that “[w]e all know why were doing this” in reference to the revision.

Knowles spoke at UB on March 9, 2023, at an event sponsored by the national YAF on the topic of “How Feminism Destroys Women (And Everything Else).” The talk allegedly inspired the rule revision. At the UB talk, Knowles reiterated his comments at CPAC, wherein he had called for eradicating “the whole preposterous ideology” of transgenderism.

Knowles responded supportively to the UB YAF lawsuit on his Twitter account:

The Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the plaintiffs in their lawsuit, alleging the defendants violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to expressive association and assembly and engaged in content and viewpoint discrimination.

The plaintiffs seek a declaration of the revised rule’s unconstitutionality, preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting the defendants from enforcing the rule, nominal damages, attorney fees, and costs.


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When the basic tenets of your positions will not hold up to even cursory examination, every effort will be taken to stifle, minimize, and eliminate debate. Heckler’s veto, charging exorbitant fees for “security”, using small venues are just some tactics used to minimize/eliminate other, competing ideas,

Free, open exchanges must be stopped

    Suburban Farm Guy in reply to Romey. | June 13, 2023 at 8:38 am

    Democracy Dies in Darkness alrighty. The Compost is superficially correct. But… who is it turning off all the lights?

The prohibition against affiliation with outside organizations is a direct and clear violation of the right to free association. Will the courts understand this? Maybe.

    UnCivilServant in reply to irv. | June 13, 2023 at 11:01 am

    Freedom of association had been a dead letter in the courts for decades.

    Public accommodation laws should have been struck down on multiple occassions. This will not get decided on fee association grounds, the courts will find some quibble to avoid the actual core issue.

stevewhitemd | June 13, 2023 at 9:48 am

It’s another demonstration that the activist progressives are both very creative and very, very persistent. They want the rest of us to be subservient and they’ll work every moment to see it happen.

    CommoChief in reply to stevewhitemd. | June 13, 2023 at 11:19 am

    Very true. Which is why, IMO, the culture war issues are worth fighting. Each time we fail to push back we cede ground to the woke weirdos who then use the newly conquered territory to launch a series of fresh attacks.

E Howard Hunt | June 13, 2023 at 10:09 am

When the zeitgeist fully approves and protects the genital mutilation of little boys and girls there is no hope. Pathetic lawsuits and rightist blogposts only highlight this.
Our civilization is at an end. This new regime will burn brightly, flare out, and itself fall into ruin. From its ashes something new will arise.

Real American | June 13, 2023 at 11:51 am

They’re more afraid that someone will hear opposing views and agree with them than they are that someone will hear the opposing view and feel “unsafe”.

Could be a win as well as a loss, if it causes clubs backed by BLM, Antifa, communists etc. to have to cease those connections. Given the strength of the latter sort of organizations and their frequent support from administration, I suspect the upside exceeds the downside here.

George_Kaplan | June 13, 2023 at 10:45 pm

So will Amnesty International also be derecognised? What about College Democrats? Turning Point USA is doubtless in the firing line along with YAF. What about the Pre-Law Chapter of the National Black Law Student Association?

Who is to face derecognition seems somewhat arbitrary in relation to the new rules, with political or ideological differences being the unwritten criteria for exclusion.