ADF threatens legal action after college rejects student's YAL chapter proposal

Skidmore College denied the request, claiming that YAL promotes 'hate speech' and would make 'students feel unsafe on campus.'

Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to Skidmore threatening litigation if the college does not immediately recognize the chapter.

Alliance Defending Freedom — a nonprofit that works to defend First Amendment rights — recently sent a letter to Skidmore College demanding that the university recognize the campus’ Young Americans for Liberty chapter as an official student organization.

The Club Affairs Committee at Skidmore recently rejected junior Hannah Davis’ request to establish a YAL chapter on campus, as previously reported by Campus Reform

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The committee told Davis that due to concerns of YAL being unable to “have a ‘healthy and sustainable place’ at Skidmore at this moment in time,” the club would be unable to “continue through the trial period at Skidmore.”

The committee further cited “concern of hate speech and making students feel unsafe on campus” as a reason for denying the club’s establishment. In turn, Davis told Campus Reform that “not only does this statement assault our character but it is in direct violation of the Skidmore Student Handbook Free Speech Clause.”

The clause states that “students, independently and collectively, are free to examine and discuss all questions of interest. Students are free to support all causes through peaceful means and to debate opinions both publicly and privately.”

With all other recourses exhausted, Davis and her peers turned to ADF for legal aid. In turn, ADF sent a letter to Skidmore President Marc Connor threatening litigation if the university does not immediately recognize the chapter.

The letter notes that the College “promises every student robust freedom of speech and freedom to associate and form organizations on campus.” Nevertheless, Skidmore has “denied Ms. Davis the ability to form a YAL chapter because the student government labels YAL as a hate group.”

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“This is false and is quintessential viewpoint discrimination that violates Skidmore’s promises to its students,” continues the letter. “We urge you to rectify this decision immediately to avoid unnecessary litigation.”

ADF also notes a number of the “over 100 other student organizations” that “enjoy the full funding, advertising, and hosting privileges the College — funded by the students’ tuition money — has to offer. Among these organizations are Voices for Planned Parenthood, Environmental Action Coalition, Skidmore Democrats, and Skidmore Republicans.

The letter states that “neither Ms. Davis nor YAL has ever advocated for or supported violence. Nor has any [student government association] member or the University ever alleged any specific incidents alleging that Ms. Davis or YAL advocated or supported violence.”

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ADF does, however, reference specific incidents of bias against Davis, stating that she “had to file a bias incident report with the College because a student threatened violence against her for her views” and that student government “leaders were openly hostile... about her and YAL’s views and repeatedly characterized her and YAL as hateful and bigoted.” 

The letter also reprimands Connor and the university for refusing “to defend Ms. Davis or YAL from these baseless accusations.”

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YAL Chief of Staff Sean Themea told Campus Reform that YAL is disappointed in Skidmore College and applauds “this swift legal action from the Alliance Defending Freedom.”

”It’s disappointing that Skidmore College has chosen to sacrifice the values of truth, civil discourse, and real tolerance in the name of social justice,” remarked Themea. “Unfortunately, Skidmore College is not the only university where YAL has gone to battle so our students can peacefully discuss America’s founding principles. YAL stands with Hannah Davis, applauding this swift legal action from the Alliance Defending Freedom to uphold her right to speak freely.”

Skidmore College declined to comment.