Too often I see newly forming YAL chapters struggle to achieve official school recognition. Although being officially recognized by your school is not a requirement for creating an awesome YAL chapter, it definitely helps when it comes time to reserve space for meetings or events, request school funding, and ultimately add more legitimacy. The First Amendment legally binds public colleges and universities, therefore if you attend a school that accepts tax-payer money in order to function, then your school is legally not allowed to deny the recognition of your YAL chapter based off of ideology alone.
Each school is different, but most institutions will require that a student organization have a faculty advisor and a certain number of members in order to achieve official recognition. To be clear, you must adhere to your school’s requirements to be officially recognized. However, sometimes schools won’t even give you the opportunity to meet those requirements, but instead deny you official recognition before you have a chance to play by their rules.
If you apply for official recognition from your school, and the administration denies your request, it is essential that you ask the administration to supply you with a copy of the specific policy that they are referencing which gives them ‘legitimacy’ to deny official recognition of your YAL chapter. If your school’s administration is unable to point you to a specific policy, then politely remind them that there are not reasonable grounds for denying official recognition. Make sure all exchanges with your school’s administration are done through email so you can have concrete evidence of all communications.
Commonly, I see schools deny YAL chapters official recognition because they believe the student organization will be ‘politically affiliated’. If this is the case, it is important to remind the administration that YAL is a non-partisan student organization that aims to identify, educate, train, and mobilize student activists dedicated to winning on principle. As a 501(c)3 non-profit, YAL does not endorse any candidates, political parties, or specific legislation.
Other times, a school will try to claim that there are ‘too many existing political groups on campus’ or that YAL’s views align too closely with another student organization with an already established presence. This is considered viewpoint discrimination, and is completely unconstitutional.
It is important to remember that private colleges and universities do not necessarily have to adhere to Constitution (although, I think we can all agree that they absolutely should), unless they make an explicit promise to freedom of speech or freedom of expression within their policies.
If you attend a public college or university and have gone through the necessary steps to get officially recognized, but your school still refuses to give your YAL chapter official recognition, then contact YAL’s Free Speech Director at firstname.lastname@example.org for further assistance.
Also, be sure to check out YAL’s handy resource on obtaining school recognition!Published in