Occupy Student Groups

Back in October, I was speaking at the University of Illinois in the early weeks of Occupy Wall Street, and one thing I recommended to students was creating registered student organizations to turn the energy of the 99% Movement into a permanent force on campuses.

Apparently some students at the University of Chicago had the same idea, and so they created a new Occupy Wall Street student group. Shockingly, the University of Chicago has decided to ban the group from being recognized, declaring: “Since the organization would be in line with a temporary political movement, the committee felt it wasn’t a sustainable basis for an RSO.”

Universities have no business declaring that certain student organizations should be banned on the basis of bizarre speculation about how long a political movement is likely to last. Occupy Wall Street is a real political movement unlike, say, the “Zombie Readiness Task Force,” which is an actual registered student group at the University of Chicago in the same political/advocacy category sought by the Occupy group.

I have no problem with students forming Zombie groups or similar silliness. Indeed, colleges should approve Zombie groups precisely because of the danger in allowing administrators to decide what student groups are proper enough to be recognized. This is a serious attack on free speech, a declaration that some ideas are not acceptable at the University of Chicago. As Adam Kissel of FIRE notes, “Freedom of association requires that every group have an equal chance to succeed in the marketplace of ideas.” The University of Chicago needs to reverse this ridiculous decision, and set clear standards to assure that ideological bias doesn’t affect the approval of student organizations.

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