The student government at the University of Northern Iowa refused to recognize a chapter of Students for Life on the basis that it is a “hate group.”
According to the Young America’s Foundation New Guard, members of the student government also alleged Students for Life is comparable to (white) supremacist groups and uses “clear militant language” in its advocacy.
Student Senator Max Tensen claimed Students for Life “is a hate group, [and uses] hate speech [and] hateful rhetoric that is infringing on basic human rights that is healthcare.”
Fellow senator Caleb Stekl, who’s also a member of the Young Democratic Socialists, shrugged off concerns that a public institution could not engage in viewpoint discrimination. He said the possibility of getting sued would be something for the university to worry about, not him, and added such a fear is “facile and weak.”
“It’s just a complete preference or privileging of money and of admins over student well-being,” Stekl said.
Further, Senator Triet Ngo said (with no apparent sense of irony) that “not all opinions are equal […] there are opinions and there are opinions that get people killed.”
University officials, however, rebuked its student representatives:
The University of Northern Iowa is committed to protecting our students’ First Amendment rights and is concerned that recent actions by the student government violated UNI policy by rendering a decision that was not content-neutral. We have provided the petitioning student organization with resources and encouraged them to appeal the decision, which they did this afternoon.
The university will support their appeal, which is scheduled to be heard Monday by the student government’s appeals court. If the court declines to grant their petition, the student group can appeal that ruling to the university president.
UNI will not uphold a decision that violates the First Amendment and university policy.
Northern Iowa Student Government has for decades provided our students with an invaluable educational opportunity to learn about First Amendment free expression and how real-world policy is made. We trust this incident will further inform all those involved.
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