While liberal agendas are continually pushed at public and private universities, conservative speech remains limited, especially at Santa Clara University in California.
Towards the end of the 2018-2019 school year, a group of students at Santa Clara University applied for their Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter to receive Registered Student Organization (RSO) status. The application was presented to the Associated Student Government Student Senate (SS) on April 11, 2019; on April 25, 2019, it was denied.
Chairman of this chapter, Quinn Eibert, made claims of hostility and malice shown by senators during the presentation. “Some…are leftwing activists who hold personal animosity toward us…They said that we dont support women, will cause emotional harm to illegal immigrants, and are homophobic. One Senator even made up that we put Ilhan Omar on our presentation to the Senate, and accused us of hypocrisy…All of those claims they made are totally false.”
After their denial, the chapter appealed this decision to Student Court. For this appeal process, the SS was required to provide documentation of specific reasons for their decisions, which included:
- inability to distinguish themselves from RSO Turning Point USA (TPUSA)
- usage of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to mislead/appeal to liberal students
- free speech platform could cause other students to feel unsafe
Siding with YAF, Student Court found that some SS claims were based on inadequate evidence and the decision was overturned, allowing YAF to be reconsidered for RSO status.
Before returning for a second vote, YAF requested RSO status directly from the Vice Provost for Student Life, Jeanne Rosenberger, in fear of a second SS denial. This request was unsuccessful. According to Eibert, Rosenberger “deliberately ignored evidence, ignored her own lawyer’s advice, and bowed to the pressure of leftist school-funded activists by denying [their] club recognition.”
On May 23, 2019, Chairman Quinn Eibert and Vice-Chairman Lauren Levinson gave their second presentation to the SS, this time focusing on their completion of all minimum requirements. This presentation included a large attendance of students affiliated with SCU’s Multicultural Center to oppose YAF’s approval.
School policy states that club eligibility for RSO status may only be judged on the ability to meet minimum requirements, which was affirmed a few weeks prior when the SS attempted to remove RSO status from Students Supporting Israel (SSI). Clubs that fulfill all requirements can only be denied if their mission is incompatible with the mission of the university. However, National YAF’s mission was proven to be compatible, making them qualified. Voting on any other criteria would be a direct violation of California’s Leonard Law.
Still, the SS refused to focus on these requirements, but rather on viewpoints of the chapter. One senator stated that YAF had “history of physical harm towards the LGBTQ+ community,” but later changing to “emotional and mental harm” due to lack of sufficient evidence. Another senator discussed problems of inclusivity, stating, “If [they] are going to celebrate legal immigration…It does not celebrate undocumented immigrants…I don’t see any ideas or active standpoints of it being inclusive.”
YAF’s second presentation resulted in another denial, this time based on fears of causing emotional harm to students and concerns of bringing “extremist” speakers on campus, specifically referring to Ben Shapiro.
Chairman Eibert, however, believes that there were other motivating factors. “If there’s one thing I want people to know about that’s been overlooked, it’s this: This process has been laced with anti-Semitism. This happened just a couple weeks after they tried to ban Students Supporting Israel (SSI) from campus.” According to Eibert, many student senators are actively involved in the RSO Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). He is a well known supporter of Israel on campus and opposer of anti-Semitism, while Vice Chairman Lauren Levinson’s father is an Israeli immigrant.
“They lied about us, defamed us, and tried to bully us,” said Eibert. One student threatened to “beat [them] up in the parking lot” on social media” while another “even led a Resistance rally” and “blocked [them] on social media despite being mandated to vote impartially.” Many senators declined to comment on these claims.
After this decision, YAF met with Vice Provost Rosenberger for a second time to appeal their denial, who “admitted that members of the SS voted against [YAF] because of [their] viewpoint.” Despite agreeing to a second meeting before making a decision, she denied the appeal without hearing any additional evidence. Rosenberger declined when asked to comment.
On August 19, 2019, Quinn Eibert, partnered with YAF General Counsel Mark Trammell, had a settlement meeting with Santa Clara University COO John Ottoboni, which, according to Eibert, went very well. Despite harassment, discrimination, and threats of violence, Santa Clara YAF leadership’s “resolve isn’t broken” and they are confident about getting approved soon.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.