CofC to pay $20K for refusing to recognize club as registered organization on campus

CofC to pay $20K for refusing to recognize club as registered organization on campus
(Source: Phillips, Patrick)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The College of Charleston has agreed to pay $20,000 to a constitutional rights group after school officials refused to recognize a student led club as a registered organization on campus.

The College claimed the South Carolina politics club was “too similar” to another club on campus and duplicated the “Fusion Party” another club on campus that also encouraged political engagement.

Lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of the politics club claiming that the school can’t deny recognition of a club based on perceived similarity of purpose, resulting in discrimination against the club. It claimed the denial was a violation of the club’s first amendment rights of association and speech.

The College also agreed to recognize the club as a registered student organization and create a new policy which eliminates a ban on clubs that the school deems too similar and provide guidelines the school has to follow in the recognition and funding process.

According to the Alliance for Defending Freedom, the “registered” status gives students more resources which include reserving meeting space and access to a pool of funds for student activities.

“Students don’t give up their constitutionally protected freedom to speak or associate when they set foot on a public college campus,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s voters and civic leaders. That’s why it’s so important that public colleges and universities exemplify the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students.”

The lawsuit was filed back in August 2018 and named several administrators including then interim president Stephen C. Osborne as defendants. The lawsuit states the club was denied registered organization status in the spring of 2018.

The $20,000 will go toward the club reimbursing litigation costs and attorneys fees, according to the alliance.

College of Charleston spokesman Mike Robertson said the college does not have a statement on the matter.

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