College Republicans told that they cannot endorse Glenn Youngkin

Conservatives at Washington & Lee University supporting the conservative gubernatorial candidate were told to cease using campaign materials on campus.

Both students and FIRE characterized the directive on students' freedom of expression.

Administrators at Washington and Lee University told conservative students to cease campaigning for Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for Virginia governor. 

The university’s College Republicans displayed materials supporting Youngkin during a September 12 activities fair, but were told by Director of Student Activities Kelsey Goodwin that they had to remove the materials due to the school’s tax-exempt status. 

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reported the incident on Tuesday, having sent a letter to Washington and Lee on September 23.

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FIRE’s letter explained that the school’s status as a 501(c)(3) organization does not compel the university to depart from upholding students’ freedom of expression.

 “In light of increased political discourse surrounding the imminent election in Virginia, we call on the university to make clear to students that their political expression will not be restricted,” the document reads. 

FIRE spokesman Daniel Burnett told Campus Reform that “there’s no excuse for censorship.” 

“Our ask is clear: Stop telling students they can’t express support for their chosen candidate. FIRE will continue to fight for students supporting both candidates,” Burnett said. 

Washington & Lee College Republicans chair Lilly Gillespie told Campus Reform that the university is barring students “from using school resources to express our opinions of candidates seeking office.” 

“When we invite candidates, or speakers affiliated with a campaign, to speak to interested students guests are not supposed to discuss the election,” she said.

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In 2015, the school adopted the Chicago Statement on Freedom of Expression, proclaiming an intention to value “the central importance of freedom of expression in a vibrant and intellectually challenging university community.”

One student told Campus Reform she feels the university is attempting to censor conservative students.

“I’m not at all surprised the university has tried to suppress conservative political speech on campus,” undergraduate Elizabeth Hertzberg told Campus Reform. “It would not be the first time one side of the debate has been stifled.”

Editor’s Note: FIRE reported that Goodwin sent a letter to both the College Republicans and College Democrats containing the following statement: “Student political organizations (College Republicans, Young Democrats, etc.) are not prohibited from pursuing their normal activities consistent with the academic nature of their endeavors.”

Campus Reform reached out to the FIRE and Washington & Lee University for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.