A conservative Christian college in California is facing criticism from fellow conservatives after school administrators denied a student's request to start a chapter of Young America's Foundation on campus.
Azusa Pacific University administrators denied sophomore Ashley Blackwell's request to turn their campus conservative club into a YAF chapter because the club didn't fit with the school's mission.
Young Americans for Life is the campus arm of the Young America's Foundation, a non-profit organization that emphasizes traditionally conservative ideas like individual freedom, free enterprise, and a strong national defense. YAF student members are encouraged to adopt the Ronald Reagan Model of Campus Activism to raise awareness on campus about various cultural issues.
In an open letter to Fox News, Blackwell, chair of her school's Conservative Club, detailed her attempt to start the chapter and the opposition she met from APU administrators. After Blackwell submitted her application, Chuck Strawn, executive director of "communiversity", told her that other administrators had problems with some language on YAF's national website. He went on to tell her he could not approve her request.
In response to questions about their decision, APU administrators released a statement explaining their opposition to the "divisive" language YAF uses on its site as well as its emphasis on campus activism.
APU administrators told YAF Vice President Todd Coyle that they specifically objected to the text on YAF's website under the "Start a Chapter" tab: "Are you tired of liberal ideas dominating your campus? Are you tired of liberal and Marxist professors indoctrinating your classmates? Do you want to advance conservatism?"
They also objected to text assuring students that, "Radical feminists, big government bureaucrats, fringe environmentalists, race-baiters, Islamo-fascists, and run of the mill leftists are distraught that you would even think about promoting conservative ideas."
In her open letter, Blackwell said she was disappointed with APU's decision and did not intend for the club to engage in activism or political activities. She also said the decision contradicted the school's goal to welcome diverse perspectives. Administrators cannot claim to promote an atmosphere where different viewpoints are accepted if they censor some views, she said.
But APU insisted they support various political opinions and ideas. "We strive to avoid those polarizing discussions commonly found in secular society, and instead encourage our community to...model civic virtue for our campus community, and...encourage spiritual unity in Christ," they said in the statement.
Jennifer Walsh, the associate dean for Azusa Pacific's college of liberal arts, told Fox News' Todd Starnes that administration denied Blackwell, not because of its conservative views but because YAF was a poor fit for the campus. "The (website) seemed to be intentionally pitched to students who are facing a hostile learning environment," she said. "That's not what we have at Azusa Pacific."
YAF has faced opposition at public schools, but the U.S. Constitution prevents administrators on those campuses from blocking the group. Another student trying to start a YAF chapter at Palm Beach State College, in Florida, just won a two-year court battle with her school over its attempt to keep YAF off campus. As part of the settlement in the case, school administrators agreed to drop a restrictive policy that limited free speech on campus.
Since APU is a private school, it is not required to guarantee free speech on campus, but Blackwell said she will continue to advocate for a YAF chapter.