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University of Utah threatens YAF group for not following unenforced rules

School says YAF should have followed rules the day before they were in effect

The University of Utah has threatened to dissolve its Young Americans for Freedom chapter for allegedly violating school rules with event flyers. But the posting rules were not in effect when the posters went up on billboards.

The Mountain States Legal Foundation sent a letter to the university’s general counsel office threatening to sue the school if it continues to retaliate against the campus YAF chapter and infringe on its rights to freedom of speech and expression.

The demand letter came after school officials alleged that YAF violated university rules by posting too many flyers on campus bulletin boards for an event it hosted with Chloe Cole, a female who previously had surgery to remove her breasts to look like a man.

Cole (pictured) now advocates against transgender drugs and surgeries.

On the same day as YAF’s event, the university changed its policy to allow only one flyer promoting a single event to be displayed per bulletin board, a rule that would not take effect until the next day, according to the national conservative group.

A YAF spokesperson told The College Fix that the university’s office of the general counsel has yet to respond to its demand letter.

“Protecting free speech, particularly on college campuses, has never been more important,” YAF’s Director of Public Relations Michael McGonigle told The Fix in an email. “The First Amendment guarantees an open exchange of ideas and ensures no one is without a voice.”

“When this fundamental right is infringed, every American has a responsibility to defend it – just as YAF students at the University of Utah have done and will continue to do,” he said.

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“With the help of organizations like Mountain States Legal Foundation, YAF will continue to hold those who violate the constitutional rights of our students accountable,” McGonigle said.

YAF also alleges the rules are applied unevenly – “liberal student organizations including the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Vegan Club have been allowed to openly violate the policy for weeks without any repercussions,” the national conservative student group wrote on its website.

The Fix reached out to the University of Utah to ask if it planned on responding to the legal letter and if it was going to revoke the chapter’s status as a registered student organization.

Rebecca Walsh, the university’s communications director, referred The Fix to several links with information on the school’s policies regarding free speech and campus flyers. She also included pictures of all the flyers YAF posted to advertise its event.

Walsh did not directly answer any questions on whether or not the university would take further action against YAF.

This was not YAF’s first encounter with backlash from the university’s administration. Less than a month prior to its event with Cole, YAF attempted to host a screening of a documentary starring Cole that was canceled by the university due to the disruption of the event by left-wing protestors.

Additionally, while not naming YAF’s flyers specifically, a university blog post published the day after the cancellation of the screening referred to flyers that are “offensive to identities, beliefs and cultures of other campus community members” as “obnoxious, divisive and simplistic.”

The Fix reached out to Jason Ramirez, associate vice president and dean of students, and Associate Dean Erica Andersen to ask how the YAF chapter was expected to comply with a day-of rule change and what their response was to claims that the school selectively enforced the rules.

Neither faculty member responded to two different requests for comment sent in the past week.

“We understand many technically legal postings can cause harm and divide our campus community,” Ramirez stated in the university news release. “[B]ut we believe the best response is more speech to combat and defend against those offensive ideas.”

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IMAGE: Young America’s Foundation/YouTube

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About the Author
Jack Applewhite -- University of Georgia