By Roxana Kopetman / Staff Writer
June 22, 2016 – Updated 10:38 p.m.
IRVINE – The College Republicans at UCI was banned from meeting on much of the campus – hours after university administrators learned that the Republican youth plan to bring back a controversial speaker to campus before the November election.
College Republicans, along with some Orange County GOP leaders, said on Wednesday that the administration is punishing students and violating their free speech rights over what they said is a technicality. Many have already began ringing the university with their concerns.
“We hope that the university will change course and serve as a beacon for the free exchange of ideas,” said Julian Babbitt, executive director of the Orange County Republican Party.
While the university does not call it a suspension, the sanction has that same impact and renders the club inactive, said the students and their supporters.
“The university should be a place for free expression and free assembly,” said Robert Petrosyan, UCI College Republicans chairman emeritus. “This kind of decision sets a horrible precedent, not just for our club, but for student organizations all over the country that are being threatened by draconian administrative policies that restrict our First Amendment rights.”
UC Irvine officials say the club violated university policy because it did not provide proof of insurance for private security guards hired by members of the Lincoln Club for a June 2 talk featuring conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos.
In an e-mail to Petrosyan late Monday afternoon, an official with the Student Center & Event Services wrote that failure to comply “results in immediate suspension of the group,” which would then “not be able to book meetings or events” with the center until next spring.
Most campus spots must be booked through the Student Center.
“It’s a suspension by another name,” Petrosyan said.
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