Truman State University is coming under fire for blocking the first amendment rights of Naomi Mathew. She tried to start an animal rights club at the college but was met with rejection by a committee of fellow students and college administrators.
An organization called (FIRE) Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has taken on her case as a first amendment issue.
FIRE has listed the following points as of December 10, 2019:
-Truman State University committee cites “reputational risk” of a student group associating with PETA, but fails to consider the reputational and legal risk of violating the First Amendment.
-University repeatedly denied recognition to proposed vegetarian groups over past two years, labeling mission statements “extreme” and citing “risk” to student health.
-University denies recognition to almost half of prospective clubs, including ones advocating for first-generation college students, transgender students, children with cancer, and more.
A fervent animal rights activist Naomi was looking forward to speaking out for the animals but instead after rejection is speaking out for herself and fellow classmates with the help of FIRE.
“It seems like the university has something against us,” Mathew said. “Truman State needs to stop making excuses and recognize our group. We understand that many people don’t like the idea of animal rights, but we still deserve the same platform as the other groups on campus.”
She completed the process necessary to create a club including submitting the application form, selecting an adviser and finding more than 10 fellow students interested in participating with the club.
The administration cited “the emotional risk” of students being hostile and that a police response to it could upset other students. They also pointed out a “reputational risk” because of the groups association with PETA.
FIRE wrote in response on their website:
“Groups without official recognition can be denied a wide range of resources, including funding, room reservations, and the ability to publicize events on campus.
Animal Alliance is the third prospective student group promoting veganism or vegetarianism to be denied recognition in as many years. The university rejected a proposed Vegetarian Club in 2017, after a committee member objected to part of its mission statement as “very very very extreme” and said they would not go vegetarian themselves.
Today, FIRE wrote to Truman State President Susan Thomas, asking her to recognize Animal Alliance and stop violating students’ First Amendment rights.
“Truman State can’t reject student groups just because it doesn’t like what they might say, or what others may say in response,” said Lindsie Rank, author of FIRE’s letter. “The law is clear: Naomi Mathew and her fellow students are free to exercise their First Amendment freedoms without a university committee making subjective decisions behind closed doors about what students can and can’t handle.””