(NEW YORK)— A policy adopted by the University of Buffalo Student Association that restricts certain clubs from being officially recognized is “short-sighted” and shows “the ripple effects of censorship,” PEN America said today, while urging  the administration to step in and ensure all students can express themselves fully and equally on campus.

The Student Association at the New York state university voted this spring to ban all student clubs that are affiliated with outside groups or organizations, with notable exemptions for “clubs in the Academic, Engineering, or Sports Councils, and clubs whose sole purpose is to engage in inter-collegiate competition.

Some critics of the rule allege that it was a direct response to the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a group whose hosting of conservative provocateur Michael Knowles just weeks before drawing significant protest across campus.

Other student groups have reported their clubs being shut down or denied official status, including humanitarian organizations like Islamic Relief. Without official status, student clubs are ineligible for funding, use of campus space, and other privileges.

Kristen Shahverdian, senior manager of Free Expression and Education at PEN America, said in response: “This ruling is not only concerning as a form of retaliation against conservative students; it clearly demonstrates the unfortunate ripple effects of censorship. This short-sighted decision will affect students from all corners of the campus community, from chapters of College Democrats and College Republicans to faith-based and humanitarian organizations, or even some student media organizations. This situation appears a blatant effort by some students to use their position of power to curtail the free expression and free association of others, with devastating impacts. We encourage the administration to step in and take steps to ensure all students can express themselves fully and equally on campus, and we hope the entire campus community can learn from this misstep.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more visit PEN.org

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057