‘Other Berkeley groups are lighting the campus on fire, throwing rocks through windows’
The University of California-Berkeley officially recognizes one libertarian student club on campus. It recognizes several progressive groups with overlapping missions.
Guess which kind of student group has been denied official recognition – and the opportunity to reserve campus space, invite speakers and get funding from its members’ own student fees – because it’s “too similar” to another.
The Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit against the taxpayer-funded university on behalf of a nascent chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, targeting the school’s recognition policies for lacking “objective, content and/or viewpoint neutral criteria.”
When the YAL chapter submitted an application for registered status, a “peer leadership consultant” identified only as “Daisy” quickly rejected the application, telling the chapter it was “too similar to Cal Libertarians” and ordering it to “work with” that club.
Because it was rejected the day of the deadline for applications, the YAL chapter has been unable to do anything a recognized club can do for the fall semester, including reserving space for spring events, according to the suit. It has also been wrongly “limited in its ability” to recruit new members and “advocate for their ideas on campus.”
As a result it has spent more than $100 of its own money on activities that would be covered by the student fee allocation for registered clubs. Meanwhile, the administration recognizes multiple iterations of left-wing and progressive clubs: two for Democrats, two for far-left students, and three for LGBT groups.
In an emailed statement to The College Fix, Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the university “categorically rejects the allegation that a decision regarding the status of a student organization was made based on the group’s political perspectives or beliefs.”
Mogulof said the system’s policies prohibit denying recognition based on political viewpoint, adding “it has never happened in the past, and will never happen in the future.” He also pointed out that Berkeley recently recognized the formation of the new “Berkeley Conservative Society.”
“University policies do seek to ensure that there is not more than one group with the exact same focus or charter, given that there are approximately 1000 student organizations on the Berkeley campus,” he said.
He noted YAL’s initial application was very similar to an existing libertarian organization, but it is “still able to register and be recognized.”
“All they need to do is confer with the Libertarian organization and decide if they want to combine or remain separate. In short, no final decision has been made as the process is not yet complete,” he said.
The lawsuit names UC System President Janet Napolitano and Chancellor Carol Christ as defendants in their official capacities. It’s a black eye for Christ in particular, who has sought to reclaim the university’s mantle as the home of the Free Speech Movement.
Others are also named in their individual capacities for direct actions that violated the chapter’s constitutional rights: Stephen Sutton, interim vice chancellor of student affairs; an unknown director of the LEAD Center, which oversees club applications; and “Daisy,” who rejected the chapter’s application.
In a statement, YAL President Cliff Maloney said it was “absurd to think that other Berkeley groups are lighting the campus on fire and throwing rocks through windows, but YAL’s efforts to peaceably promote the message of liberty are being shunned by university administrators.”
Fifteen days after this article was published, Mogulof emailed The Fix again to say the university still hadn’t been served a copy of the complaint, as required by court rules:
Why do you suppose that is, and what does it say when litigation documents are sent to media, but never actually served—a necessary part of the actual litigation process. …
Service is how the defendants know that they have been sued by you and summoned to the court to litigate the dispute. It is on you to do the serving. The court eventually dismisses the cases if you don’t complete service. We have yet to be served.
Mogulof reiterated that the YAL chapter “didn’t even try to complete the process” of formally distinguishing itself from the recognized libertarian student group.
The alliance provided a written statement Dec. 19 from legal counsel Caleb Dalton that said it gave the university’s counsel “a courtesy copy” of the suit, and it’s “in the process of serving the complaint” directly to the university.
“Two weeks is not an unusual length of time for process servers to take,” an alliance spokesperson told The Fix, noting the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure give it 90 days “from filing to service.” The Fix has asked for a time frame in which the university can expect service.
Told of the alliance’s response, Mogulof replied:
Seeing is believing. Far easier if the student group were to simply finish the application process and get the recognition that they seem to want. The only thing stopping that is their failure to complete the required steps.
UPDATE: UC-Berkeley provided The Fix a statement after this article was published. The university contacted The Fix again Dec. 19 to state it had still not received a copy of the complaint. The alliance’s explanation for not yet serving the university directly has been added.