A group of students at the University of Pennsylvania hoping to start a hunting, archery and shooting club are finally in business, but only after months of delays they believe may have been due to viewpoint bias.

“A few years ago, me and a few friends were interested in learning how to shoot and ethically harvest game,” said Dongwook “Chris” Choe, a fourth-year student at Penn studying biology. 

“We thought others at Penn might be interested in shooting, conservation, and the outdoors as well; we decided to make a club to share our interests with the student body.”

Chris and his friends submitted their application for club-recognition from the university in March of last year, but “after a few months, we noticed that other outdoor clubs were being recognized while our application remained stalled,” he said.

Penn is private, and as such has much more authority to set its own rules when compared to a public college or university.

However, “they promise students the full array of free speech and free associational rights,” said Zach Greenberg, with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, who intervened with Penn on Choe’s behalf. “So, students that go there, the groups that operate there are expected to have rights consistent with the First Amendment.”

Choe and Greenberg say when the club first submitted its application for recognition, the university said it wasn’t processing applications because of the pandemic. The group was proposing only virtual meetings at the time.

“While the group remained in limbo for over a year without registration, the university approved the Penn surf club, which explicitly in its mission statement calls for going down to the Jersey shore and engaging in in-person activities in violation of university COVID regulations,” Greenberg argued. “That showed us that this was more about the hunting shooting and archery club’s viewpoints and less about disruptions from the university during the COVID pandemic.” 

‘While the group remained in limbo for over a year without registration, the university approved the Penn surf club…’

Calls and emails to the university requesting comment were not returned.

Choe is taking it in stride, saying, “although Penn appears to have initially slow-walked our request for a year, since the recent decision to approve our application, the administrators we are now working with have been very accommodating and helpful; we look forward to working with them in the future.”

The intersection between free speech and education has  become increasingly controversial in recent years.

This year, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on a case in which a young student criticized her school on Snapchat after she was placed on the junior varsity cheerleading squad rather than varsity. As a result of her post, which she published on a Saturday, the school banned her from cheerleading for a year. The case looks at whether a school has the authority to act against speech that did not take place on school property or on a school day.

Closer to home, St. Joseph’s math professor and part-time baseball coach Greg Manco is still on a suspended leave after a small number of anonymous Twitter users reported his anonymous Twitter account, @SouthJerzGiants, to the university.

Read more about this story! — St. Joseph’s professor suspended over tweets and St. Joseph’s ignored its own policy by suspending professor over tweets

Manco had been critical of some policy issues like reparations and frequently commented on other controversial topics via the account .

FIRE has intervened on Manco’s behalf as well. Although the ordeal began in February, Manco is still suspended and the investigation has not been concluded.

Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at tshepherd at broadandliberty.com, or use his encrypted email at shepherdreports at protonmail.com.

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