The University of South Florida (USF) has reversed its denial of recognition to the USF Young Pakistani Student Cultural group. USF had argued that the Young Pakistanis were too "similar" to the Young Indian Student Cultural group on campus. After USF denied the Young Pakistani application for recognition, they came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.
This case is disturbing because USF currently recognizes over 60 multicultural groups and no fewer than 20 engineering clubs. But, according to USF, the Pakistanis are considered too similar to Indians to be allowed on campus. The Pakistanis were initially told to simply join the Indian group because USF administrators were unable to discern a difference between the two groups.
The ordeal of the USF Young Pakistanis began in April 2010 when they submitted a constitution in order to gain official recognition. USF rejected the application in a September e-mail from the USF Student Programs Coordinator. She told the Young Pakistani Founding Chairman the following: "the purpose of your proposed organization may be fairly similar, if not the same, as another existing organization that is established at the USF Tampa campus." She added "no other student organization can exist with the same or similar mission/purpose."
By now, the reader of this column may be sensing some familiarity with the general argument employed by USF. A few years ago, the University of Miami refused to recognize Advocates for Conservative Thought (ACT), a student organization that was created for "the exposition and promotion of conservative principles and ideas." The University of Miami argued that this decision was justified because it had previously recognized the College Republicans. FIRE also intervened in that case and ACT finally received official recognition. This was after four failed attempts without the help of FIRE.
By now, the reader of this column may also be sensing that it is a parody. USF did not ban the Pakistanis because they were similar to the Indians. USF banned a conservative group, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), because it was similar to a libertarian group, Young Americans for Liberty. The analogy is a good one given the extent to which conservatives and libertarians often fight over important issues.