Student group sues UC Berkeley for alleged First Amendment violation

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Update 12/4/17: This story has been updated to include information from a YAL press release

Young Americans for Liberty at UC Berkeley, or YAL, filed a federal lawsuit against UC Berkeley on Monday after campus officials allegedly denied the organization Registered Student Organization, or RSO, status.

The lawsuit alleges that YAL was denied RSO status after campus officials told the group it did not meet the qualifications for creating a new organization because it is too similar to the already existing student organization Cal Libertarians. In the lawsuit, YAL alleged that denial of recognition to the student organization is a violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of association.

YAL named UC President Janet Napolitano, Chancellor Carol Christ and Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Stephen Sutton, among others, in the lawsuit.

“UC Berkeley categorically rejects the allegation that a decision regarding the status of a student organization was made based on the group’s political perspectives or beliefs,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof in a statement.

YAL was given the option to confer with Cal Libertarians and choose to combine or remain separate, according to Mogulof.

As an organization not recognized by the campus, YAL cannot reserve space, invite speakers to campus or utilize funds reserved for campus student organizations and speakers.

The student organization is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF, a nonprofit legal organization, and by attorney Michael L. Renberg.

The ADF attorneys contend that UC Berkeley’s alleged decision to deny RSO status to YAL “explicitly discriminates against YAL on the basis of its pro-liberty views,” according to a YAL press release.

YAL is a network of about 900 college chapters made up of students who promote and defend the principles of liberty, according to the press release, and claim to share a respect for freedom, the U.S. Constitution, open discourse and free speech.

According to Caleb Dalton, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, YAL hopes to be granted registered student status, and it hopes that the lawsuit will result in a policy that opens up access to other student organizations as well.

“The university is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas,” said Dalton. “(It’s) not doing any favors by picking and choosing.”

Amber Tang is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ambertang_dc.