A libertarian student group has sued the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) for refusing to grant it official club status, alleging political discrimination.
Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), which describes itself as "not political, or partisan," has challenged the university's explanation that it denied the club recognition because YAL is "too similar" to an extant campus organization, the Cal Libertarians.
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The federal lawsuit, filed Monday, charges that Berkeley's policies governing status recognition are "arbitrary and without justification and result in and from content and/or viewpoint discrimination."
Lacking official status, YAL cannot reserve space, invite speakers, or receive university funding drawn from the $694 per-semester campus fee, according to the suit.
In the absence of Berkeley support, YAL members say they have spent over $100 to fund their activities.
YAL President Cliff Maloney said in a statement, "It is absurd to think that other Berkeley groups are lighting the campus on fire and throwing rocks through windows, but YAL's efforts to peaceably promote the message of liberty are being shunned by university administrators."
Caleb Dalton, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom and lead counsel for YAL, said, "Public universities are supposed to be a ‘marketplace of ideas' for students, but that can't happen when administrators are allowed to pick and choose which student organizations will be recognized based on the students' views."
University spokesperson Dan Mogulof told the Washington Free Beacon, "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. University of California policies clearly and specifically preclude denying recognition based on political viewpoint. It has never happened in the past, and will never happen in the future."
Mogulof said that "no final decision has been made" on YAL's status, "as the process is not yet complete." The YAL students could achieve recognition by conferring with the Cal Libertarians and determining "if they want to combine or remain separate," he said.
The club application deadline for this semester has already passed.
Mogulof added that UC Berkeley recently gave official status to the Berkeley Conservative Society, though the school already has a chapter of College Republicans, as proof that university policies do not discriminate on political lines, but "do seek to ensure that there is not more than one group with the exact same focus or charter."
YAL says multiple clubs exist that "appear almost identical," such as the Queer Alliance & Resource Center, the Queer Student Union, and the UNITY Resource Center.
The defendants include UC System President Janet Napolitano, Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, and Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Stephen Sutton.
The unnamed director of the Leadership, Engagement, Advising, and Development (LEAD) Center and a "peer leadership consultant" identified as "Daisy Doe" are also listed in the lawsuit as instrumental in the denial of the application.
LEAD does not list its director in its staff directory. The center did not immediately reply to request for comment and clarification on the LEAD director role.