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Worcester State grants ‘privileges’ to conservative club, it says, after student government denies recognition

UPDATED

‘The school and Senate get to save face while rendering approval just a formality’

Earlier this year, Worcester State University refused to overturn its student government’s denial of recognition to a Turning Point USA chapter, which all evidence suggests was on the basis of the club’s viewpoint.

Outside pressure on the public university, from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk among others, apparently led the taxpayer-funded institution to relax its non-intervention stance.

The chapter tweeted Tuesday that the administration has granted it “all privileges of a student club, except access to student fees. We will still have to go in front of the senate for approval.”

It is still waiting for “clarity” on the details. In a Twitter direct message Wednesday, the organization declined to provide The College Fix written materials of its discussions and agreement with the taxpayer-funded institution. University media relations has not answered a Tuesday request to lay out the “privileges” it granted the club and explain why it intervened.

“While we have allowed a compromise of our rights, the school and Senate get to save face while rendering approval just a formality,” the conservative club wrote.

It said the university had promised the student government would receive “first amendment training” this summer, apparently referring to the legislative body’s constitutional obligation to practice viewpoint neutrality in club recognition decisions.

MORE: WSU refuses to get involved in student government’s TPUSA rejection

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education advocated on the club’s behalf to the administration.

FIRE said Wednesday, after the club declined to provide The Fix its communications, that the university’s counsel “clarified the group’s status” last week, confirming TPUSA “can now recruit members and plan events for the upcoming semester” while waiting for formal student government approval this fall:

“This is a win for students’ free association rights at Worcester State,” said Katlyn Patton, program officer in FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. … “I encourage student government representatives across the country to take a good look at this case and think twice before denying a student group because they don’t agree with its political viewpoint.” …

The university’s action helps shore up the group members’ rights for now, and FIRE will monitor the situation to ensure the student government uses a viewpoint-neutral approval process when TPUSA Worcester reapplies for recognition in the fall.

Unlike Santa Barbara City College’s refusal to overturn its student government’s rejection of a TPUSA chapter around the same time, WSU had to ignore the student government’s written justification for rejecting the chapter, which included “Negative impact on campus climate.”

In a May 5 tweet, the club said it had waited 61 days at that point for even a response from the administration:

The WSU administration has a responsibility to fulfill their first amendment obligations and approve our club. WSU is a public institution that receives taxpayer funds. We deserve a response.

Its cause was also taken up by the New Tolerance Campaign, which launched in October but does not identify who runs the organization. One of the club leaders, Tony Winship, told the organization that the chapter spoke to “hundreds of students while tabling and only a retired art professor had an issue with our group.”

Follow the club on Twitter.

UPDATE: The TPUSA chapter declined to provide its communications with the administration to The Fix. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said it has secured confirmation from the university’s counsel that TPUSA has official recognition apart from student fees, which it must seek in the fall. The article has been amended.

MORESBCC refuses to overturn student government rejection of TPUSA

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IMAGE: STUDIO GRAND OUEST/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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