By Alyssa Melillo
Stony Brook Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a national conservative student group with chapters at schools around the country, has threatened to sue USG on charges of bias. According to a Web page posted on SB YAF’s Facebook page, the club claims USG’s denial “is a tactic by the leftist administration to suppress the expansion of conservative-minded student organizations on campus.” It also goes on to say that the “denial of recognition and funding [under this circumstance] is unconstitutional.”
Rachael Doukas, president of YAF, declined to comment. Other members of YAF could not be reached.
USG denies this claim. Matt Graham, USG president, said that when a club is looking to receive recognition from USG, it applies to the Special Services Council. The SSC is responsible for investigating whether or not another club with the same purpose already exists on campus. When YAF applied at the beginning of the spring semester to receive funding, the SSC determined that its mission was not distinct from previously established organizations, Graham said.
“Unfortunately, USG simply cannot give recognition to every single organization that wants to form,” he said. “USG already funds over 160 clubs and the money is tight for all of them. Given our financial restrictions, we are forced to make tough decisions like this all the time. Naturally, [people are going to be] upset.”
On its Facebook page, SB YAF describes itself as “an organization dedicated to promoting the principles of freedom and liberty as defined by the Sharon Statement. The organization strongly believes that liberty is indivisible and that political freedom cannot be achieved unless we have economic freedom. YAF also believes that the market economy, which allocates resources by supply and demand, without outside interference, is the best supplier of human needs.”
College Republicans, the club USG claims YAF is an extension of, describes itself on its website as an organization that is “dedicated to the goals of achieving a Republican majority here on campus, and of promoting the spread of freedom and democracy around the world, limited government and the rule of law, federalism, and a free-market economy.”
If YAF does decide to take legal action against USG, it could potentially have an effect on student life. Graham said USG would have to pay for the possible lawsuit with the student activity fee, which is what funds events on campus.
“The USG has a responsibility to ensure the proper expenditure of the student activity fee,” he said. “Spending [it] on legal battles only takes away from our core mission, which is to improve student life.” Graham said USG has a legal council that will handle any lawsuit that may occur.
Nathan Shapiro, USG administrative director, declined to comment.
Although this is the first time USG is being threatened with legal action for not funding a club, this is not the first time YAF has gone this far to receive recognition at a school. According to the web page mentioned earlier, YAF was denied recognition at the University of Central Florida because it was too similar to Young Americans for Liberty. After taking legal action, UCF granted YAF recognition.
If bias is the real reason behind USG’s decision, the 2010-2011 budget says otherwise. College Republicans receives $17,000 in funding. College Democrats receives $3,500.
Despite it all, Graham said that YAF’s threat of a lawsuit still doesn’t change the reason why it did not receive recognition. Settling before possibly appearing in court, he said, is not an option.
“The rationale used in the decision to not recognize them can be revisited, but to simply give into their threats would defeat the entire purpose of a recognition process and be unfair to other clubs,” he said.