Conservatives accuse UVA of illegally rejecting YAF chapter

The University of Virginia (UVA) is being accused of breaking state law after allegedly refusing to officially recognize a Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter on campus.

According to a Young America’s Foundation news release, YAF and attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) put the school “on notice” for “its blatant violation of both the United States Constitution and state law.”

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“This semester, a group of conservative-minded students attempted to form a YAF chapter at UVA only to be denied by administrators,” the organization wrote. “University administrators cited YAF’s Sharon Statement as the problem.”

YAF argues that the Sharon Statement, adapted by the group in 1960, is a “timeless declaration of conservative principles” that is central to the organization’s mission.

The statement derives its name from the home of a prominent conservative intellectual William F. Buckley, where a group of 100 young conservatives met “with the purpose of creating Young Americans for Freedom.”

“Drafted at the home of William F. Buckley, the Sharon Statement has been called a ‘seminal document’ of the Conservative Movement by the New York Times, and is widely regarded as one of the most important declarations of modern conservatism,” the group argues.

According to YAF, however, the school refused to recognize the local chapter over its “reasonable, common-sense requirement that chapter members and leaders affirm the Sharon Statement.”

In a letter to the university, ADF gave the school administrators a December 20 deadline to grant the YAF chapter recognition and alter its policy in accordance to state law.

“Given the clarity of the state law on point and YAF-UVA’s desire to promptly begin to engage in advocacy on grounds at UVA, we ask that you immediately grant its request for [Contracted Independent Organization] CIO status by Wednesday, December 20,” ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox wrote in the letter.

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“In order to ensure that this problem does not recur in the future—potentially leading to litigation in the future—we also ask that you update the UVA nondiscrimination statement to incorporate the requirements of [state law],” Mattox added.

A University of Virginia spokesperson told Campus Reform that the school “has received a letter regarding an organization's interest in status as a Contracted Independent Organization” and that the officials are currently “reviewing the matter.”

UPDATE: In a follow-up email, a university official explained that the Student Council “had requested two changes to the constitution submitted by YAF” in November, and that the CIO application was “temporarily denied” when no response was received. 

“The decision by Student Council was not viewpoint based, but rather based upon an error in applying the non-discrimination policy,” the spokesperson said. “The CIO application from YAF was never voted on by the Student Council representative body for final approval or denial. The University has now requested that Student Council take steps to remedy this as soon as possible.”

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