Campus Reform | Student gov blocks libertarian student group, citing 'hate speech,' 'bigotry' concerns

Student gov blocks libertarian student group, citing 'hate speech,' 'bigotry' concerns

A Skidmore College student trying to start a Young Americans for Liberty group at her school was denied after being told by the Club Affairs committee, which cited concerns of "hate speech."

The move follows a petition that labels YAL as “racist, homophobic and transphobic.”

The Club Affairs Committee at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York denied a student's request to form a Young Americans for Liberty chapter on campus.  

Hannah Davis, a junior at Skidmore College, has been working to found the YAL group at her school and as part of those efforts, recently created an Instagram page “YALSkidmore.” 

Within the first few weeks, students posted hateful comments on the page. At the time of publication of this article, there were more than 100 comments from people who disagreed with the club’s messages.

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Young Americans for Liberty’s mission statement describes the group as “the most active and effective pro-liberty youth organization advancing liberty on campus and in American electoral politics.” 

One individual created a petition to demand that Skidmore College Affairs not approve the club. With nearly 1,800 signatures, it states that “YAL chapters across the country have been springboards for hate speech and bigotry disguised as political discourse and their proclivity to spread hatred cannot be tolerated.”

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“YAL’s pattern of racism, homophobia, and transphobia cannot be disputed. Skidmore must make no space for this kind of open bigotry on campus,” reads the petition. 

In a March 5 email obtained by Campus Reform, Co-Chair of Club Affairs Sarah Baker informed Davis that the committee had decided that “Young Americans for Liberty cannot continue through the trial period at Skidmore.” 

The email noted that “some concerns were raised centered around feeling that YAL could not have a ‘healthy and sustainable place’ at Skidmore at this moment in time.” 

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Further, the committee stated that as written in the Student Government bylaws for the college, “Club Affairs can deny a club the trial period if they ‘feel beyond unreasonable doubt, that a club would be unsuccessful.’” The email outlined “specific considerations” that were brought up during the meeting, such as a “concern of hate speech and making students feel unsafe on campus.”

Davis told Campus Reform that her group “believes that the Club Affairs Committee’s very biased decision was due to the negative bias toward the political opinions of the club held by some committee members and the cancel culture backlash that was threatened on social media if the club were to be approved.” 

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With regard to the committee's concerns of “hate speech,” Davis stated 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.” 

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Davis further explained that the group will be meeting with Skidmore College President, Marc C. Connor, to discuss these issues, adding that it is “hopeful that it will go well.” 

The college, Skidmore student government, and Club Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

"The student leaders whom our students have elected as their representatives have the right to vote to decide the outcome of this process," Connor told the Albany Times-Union. "I encourage all members of our community to exercise their freedom of speech and freedom of association and to engage with each other with patience, courtesy and respect for one another."

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @abbyystreetman