CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia–After a month of wrangling with a group of conservative students, the University of Virginia’s Student Council finally granted official recognition to the fledgling Burke Society.
The Burke Society, established with help from the Leadership Institute, sought to promote conservative principles and raise awareness of the works of British statesman and philosopher, Edmund Burke.
The Student Council twice rejected the Burke Society’s application for official status, claiming that a clause in the Society’s constitution violated the school’s non-discrimination policy. The “offending” clause restricts membership in the Society to students who have conservative values.
Burke Society President Luke Mancini argued that the University Democrats and Young Democratic Socialists had similar clauses in their constitution–both groups have official status. Official recognition allows groups to receive funding from the Student Council.
Following the second rejection, Mancini enlisted the help of the Leadership Institute and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). FIRE sent a letter to the University to argue that the School Council’s rejection was a violation of the conservative student’s First Amendment right to freedom of association.
At the next meeting of the School Council, the Council approved the Burke Society’s application for official recognition.
“I’m really excited that we are now an official group and can go forward to promote the writings of Edmund Burke,” said Mr. Mancini.
“We want to raise the level of intellectual discussion about conservative principles on the campus,” he added.
The Burke Society now has 43 members and plans to host a high-profile conservative speaker at UVA this semester.
Michelle Miller works with the Leadership Institute’s Campus Leadership Program (CLP).