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University at Buffalo freezes YAF chapter’s $6,000, restricts free speech: lawsuit

‘[R]arely have we seen a student government that treats student groups as its wholly owned subsidiaries that it can micromanage, and rarely have we seen a university that would permit this level of mistreatment’

Young Americans for Freedom continues to fight for their student funds and right to freely organize at the University at Buffalo.

Alliance Defending Freedom represented the group in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York on Friday.

“It’s unfortunate that University at Buffalo is penalizing Young Americans for Freedom from pursuing their group’s mission,” attorney Logan Spena told The College Fix via a media statement on Monday. “We are grateful for the opportunity to argue before the court to affirm that universities can’t force student groups like YAF to give up their constitutional freedom to receive official recognition and the benefits that flow from it.”

“We hope that the court will support the reality that universities should not be limiting YAF’s voice,” Spena said.

The public university’s student government “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,” according to an April 25 news release.

The Student Association originally wanted to require the group to disaffiliate from the national Young America’s Foundation. Following a federal lawsuit, this policy changed.

However, it was replaced with another one that would require the group to forfeit its right to sue and turn over financial accounts and “enter into agreements with other individuals or organizations,” according to a prior news release from ADF.

The Student Association and university declined to change the policies in early April, leading to the hearing on Friday. Neither responded to multiple emailed requests for comment sent in the past several weeks. The Fix asked the media team, including Vice President for University Communications John Della Contrada, for any additional context on the situation and if a university attorney regularly reviews the student government actions.

The lawsuit came after repeated attempts to rectify the situation, according to ADF. The Student Association first changed its policies after YAF hosted conservative commentator Michael Knowles for a speech criticizing transgenderism, as previously reported by The College Fix.

Student governments regularly “abuse their authority,” according to the legal nonprofit.

“Unfortunately, it is all too common for student governments to abuse their authority by adopting policies that violate students’ liberties,” ADF attorney Travis Barham told The Fix several weeks ago via a media statement. “But rarely have we seen a student government that treats student groups as its wholly owned subsidiaries that it can micromanage, and rarely have we seen a university that would permit this level of mistreatment.”

The restrictions have hurt its ability to operate, according to a filing from ADF.

This action of blocking the YAF group from their funds has prevented them from “hosting their 9/11 Never Forget Project, two banquets, debates, showing films, hosting game nights, or creating new banners and signage for its tabling event,” ADF wrote in a March 2024 motion.

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This ban also prevents YAF from hosting their own speakers, getting any financial support, and promoting their organization.

The university, represented by New York Attorney General Letitia James and an assistant attorney general, argued the group had other means of getting approved in an April 10 motion.

Groups can also seek recognition by getting approved through a university department, the state argued.

The attorney general’s office also states the policies of the student association require viewpoint neutrality, which it argues nullifies the group’s concerns.

ADF argued in its March filing the student association’s policies would likely lead to viewpoint discrimination, since it can block fundraisers and financial transactions.

YAF’s attorneys also gave examples of other Student Association-affiliated groups that are in conflict with its client’s views. Since they all are under the Student Association umbrella, it could appear those groups represent YAF.

“Students for Justice in Palestine is unlikely to appreciate Young Americans for Freedom’s desire to hold a pro-Israel demonstration,” the motion stated.

“Nor will the Lesbian/Gay and Bisexual Transgender Alliance like the group’s planned ‘De-Transitioners Day of Visibility’ to highlight those victimized by body-altering gender-transition effort.”

“Conversely, Young Americans for Freedom fundamentally disagrees with many views these five organizations exist to advance and thus would not voluntarily join any of them or support their events.”

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About the Author
Madison Rehbehn -- Dallas Baptist University