Sunday, April 14, 2024

Conservative Group Sues University at Buffalo for Blocking Financial Account

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Attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) have filed a motion asking a federal judge to stop the University at Buffalo from blocking a conservative group from accessing $6,000 in funding. 

The non-profit legal group filed a lawsuit last June on behalf of University at Buffalo’s Young Americans for Freedom after university officials and the Student Association de-recognized the conservative student group and barred it from receiving the same benefits as other student groups. 

According to the lawsuit, Young Americans for Freedom hosted conservative commentator, Michael Knowles, last March.

A week before his scheduled appearance at the university, Knowles made comments calling for “transgenderism” to be “eradicated from public life entirely.” 

Some students demanded UB cancel the event for Knowles due to “hate speech,” Buffalo News reports.

Ahead of Knowles’ appearance, the school released a statement saying, “As a public university, UB must uphold the principles of the First Amendment and cannot disallow student groups from inviting controversial speakers to campus, even if the views of the speaker, or content of the speech, is hurtful or demeaning.”

Knowles still made a speech for the Young Americans for Freedom, a chapter of the national organization of Young America’s Foundation, however several hundred people gathered to protest while he was there. 

Additionally, two weeks later, the Student Association revised its policies to prohibit groups from being chapters of national organizations. 

“The lawsuit explains that the timing of the revision together with the fact that the Student Association president sought legal counsel and told the Student Association Senate, ‘We all know why we’re doing this,’ demonstrates that they were targeting Young Americans for Freedom and its views,'” ADF explains.

Young Americans for Freedom sought the legal counsel of the ADF who filed a lawsuit in June. 

The university rescinded its policy as a result of the lawsuit, but replaced it with another policy that required student organizations and their leaders to give up their legal rights in order for the clubs to be officially recognized.

Specifically student groups’ “surrender their, and their organization’s, right to file a lawsuit against the university or its officials in the future, exist as a legal entity under state law, have financial accounts as an organization, and enter into agreements with other individuals or organizations.”

But the Young Americans for Freedom refused to sign a form waiving its legal rights. 

As a result, the Student Association has blocked the student group from accessing more than $6,000 in student-fee funding in its account, using authority given it by university officials.

“First, officials at the University at Buffalo violated Young Americans for Freedom’s constitutionally protected freedom by punishing the group for affiliating with off-campus allies,” explained Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Travis Barham. 

“All this happens because instead of protecting a learning environment where all ideas and viewpoints are welcome, the university gives the Student Association free rein to continue implementing unconstitutional policies,” he continued.

The legal group filed a motion last week seeking an injunction to stop the university from blocking funds rightfully given to each student group.

They cite that changing the policy is a violation because it denies the group’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

“Public universities cannot treat student organizations as if they are just a subordinate or extension of the university or student government,” Barham said. “And they cannot demand that those groups give up their freedoms to get resources available to all other Student Association clubs.”

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