Skip to content

Pro-liberty student group lawsuit prompts UC-Berkeley to change policy

ADF attorneys represent Young Americans for Liberty at University of California, Berkeley
If Your Viewpoint Is “Similar” to Someone Else’s, Should It Be Silenced?

OAKLAND, Calif. – The University of California at Berkeley has revised its Registered Student Organization policy in light of a federal lawsuit Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed on behalf of the campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty.

As part of a settlement ending the suit, the university has agreed to revisions that prohibit discrimination against student groups based on their statements of purpose or uniqueness, mission statements, or other viewpoints expressed in their applications. In addition, the university agreed to pay damages and attorneys’ fees.

“Public university officials can’t discriminate against students because of their political beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “By leaving decisions on whether a student group is ‘too similar’ to another club in the hands of a university official with no requirement to follow any viewpoint-neutral standards, UC-Berkeley allowed for unconstitutional discrimination, but these changes fix that problem. Because these students stood up and challenged the status quo, the marketplace of ideas is freer at Berkeley today than it was last year.”

Last year, UC-Berkeley denied recognition to the Young Americans for Liberty chapter because the university deemed it to be “too similar to Cal Libertarians,” a recognized club on campus—despite recognizing multiple other student organizations with overlapping missions. Because UC-Berkeley excluded Young Americans for Liberty from Registered Student Organization status and all the benefits that accompany it, the group could not reserve space, invite speakers, or access the pool of funds they already paid into, which is reserved for student organizations and the speakers and events they sponsor. Under the new policy, UC-Berkeley has agreed to implement objective viewpoint-neutral criteria for recognizing student organizations.

"As the birth place of the Free Speech Movement and a public university, UC Berkeley has done the right thing in agreeing to respect the First Amendment in this matter," said YAL President Cliff Maloney, Jr. "I applaud the students for standing up for their constitutionally protected freedoms and advocating for a level playing field."

“Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s voters and civic leaders,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “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.”

In light of the settlement agreement reached in Young Americans for Liberty at University of California, Berkeley v. Napolitano, the case has been dismissed.

Michael L. Renberg of the Fresno law firm Parichan, Renberg & Crossman is serving as local counsel for the Young Americans for Liberty chapter. YAL at Berkeley is a group of students who share a mutual respect for freedom and the natural rights of life, liberty, and property. The group is not political or partisan, and its members span the spectrum of political identities.

  • Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.


# # # | Ref. 61029

Related Profiles

Tyson Langhofer
Tyson Langhofer
Senior Counsel, Director of Center for Academic Freedom
Tyson Langhofer serves as senior counsel and director of the Center for Academic Freedom with Alliance Defending Freedom.
Caleb Dalton
Caleb Dalton
Senior Counsel
Caleb Dalton serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he plays a key role at the Center for Academic Freedom.