Montana State Young Americans for Liberty Fight for Students’ Rights at the State Capital

Montana State University Young Americans for Liberty leaders recently made sure their voices were heard during a hearing on House Bill 517. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Hopkins, (R-Missoula), is intended to add an amendment to the Montana state constitution which provides “duly elected lawmakers authority to enact laws to protect constitutional rights of students, faculty, and staff of the Montana university system”. 


Dylan Dean, the leader of Montana State University YAL, made his voice heard at a recent Montana committee meeting by urging the legislature to vote in favor of HB 517. Dean has a history of clashes with the Montana State University administration. One particular instance is in the fall of 2021, when he led the student opposition to MSU’s mask mandate. After previously promising a mask free policy, MSU President Waded Cruzado began issuing communication indicating that a mask requirement would be issued after all, which was problematic because the issuing of the requirement came once the school year started, which deprived students of the opportunity to knowingly decide whether or not to attend school for the semester based on which rules they were willing to follow or not. 


As a response, Dean started a petition against the mandate, which collected just over 1100 signatures. He had difficulties delivering the petition to Cruzcado’s office because Cruzado ultimately was unwilling to meet with Dean to receive the petition, which he had to give to a dean to deliver to Cruzado for him. 


Dean testified during the committee meeting that during the fight of MSU YAL against a possible vaccine mandate, Dean was subject to being monitored and tracked in various ways that violate the constitutional right to privacy. He said that “the VP of Information technology confirming that UPD does have the power to monitor MSU email addresses without a warrant. This is a gross violation of our constitutional right to privacy, and this is something you would expect to see in China or Russia, not Montana”. Dean said later that “this type of woeful disregard for our rights creates a very hostile environment for students”. 


Dean said later in his testimony that he serves as a conduct advisor for several students, and he said that “when accused of violating the code of conduct, students lack almost all of the rights afforded to them by the US and Montana constitutions.” After sharing his experience at the school as head of YAL and as a conduct advisor for students, Dean finished his testimony by saying “House Bill 517 would allow the legislature to ensure our due process rights are upheld on campus.” He urged the committee to vote “yes” on HB 517 in order to “affirm that we as students are not second class citizens”. 


The Montana Free Press reports that “The House Judiciary Committee has not yet taken action on HB 517, which faces a deadline of April 3 for transmittal to the Senate”. 



Theo McManigal is a freelance writer and teacher. He lives in Illinois with his family.

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