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Student can’t start conservative club because her college already has a non-conservative club

A conservative club is a liberal club is a non-ideological club.

That’s the curious logic behind Hagerstown Community College’s refusal to let a student start a campus chapter of Turning Point USA, the free-market advocacy organization.

Moriah DeMartino’s uphill climb was covered by Campus Reform last month and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education this week.

The Maryland school’s justification goes like this: HCC already has a Political Science Club – which is open to activists of all ideologies – so it would be “duplicative” for DeMartino to start a club that explicitly advocates a specific ideology.

The school officially responded to DeMartino’s venting in public with what it considered a persuasive rejoinder:

The objectives of the club are quite broad and include non-partisan, but inclusive, political engagement, political learning, and political instruction.

Despite DeMartino’s claims, HCC’s Political Science Club has been and continues to be an active club, representing a range of political ideologies. During the 2014-2015 academic year, the Political Science Club organized forums with Republican and Democratic candidates, participated in meetings with elected officials representing Republican and Democratic parties, conducted voter registration drives on the HCC campus, and met with officials from the National Security Administration and the U.S. Department of State.

The school originally told DeMartino she could instead start a Republican club, but only if someone starts a Democratic club at the same time. Now even that’s off the table.

In an administrator’s email to Campus Reform that’s reprinted in full by FIRE, the school says it has “determined that both Republicans and Democrats, as well as any other political parties, are able to be fairly represented as members of the currently existing [Political Science] club, without the creation of any additional clubs.”

So basically, HCC is holding all political student groups hostage if they have the teensiest similarity to the mission of an all-comers club.

FIRE wrote to HCC to protest its “unwritten” and “unconstitutional” policy that restricts freedom of association, as well its “unfair double standards” in allowing a Christian club on campus without requiring “that Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, and other faith-based or humanist groups be active on campus at the same time.”

Read the Campus Reform story and FIRE post.

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