University Officials Threaten to Arrest Conservative Recruiter · 18 September 2006

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By Nathan Burchfiel--CNSNews.com--09/15/06

(CNSNews.com) - Administrators at the University of Central Oklahoma at Edmond have threatened to arrest a student who was recruiting members for a conservative club. The student is accused of violating a university policy that requires permission to recruit for clubs.

The student, Travis Cleek, was trying to identify fellow conservatives who were interested in starting a new conservative club on campus last week when police threatened to arrest him for trespassing, according to Michelle Miller, a spokeswoman for the conservative Leadership Institute.

The Leadership Institute helps young conservative activists establish clubs on their campuses. Group members were helping Cleek with recruiting when they were threatened with arrest.

The university requires students interested in starting a club to get permission from the "assistant director of campus life for community development" before beginning outreach efforts.

Once students have expressed interest in forming a group, they must also complete application forms, draft a constitution and obtain a faculty advisor.

It can take as long as 60 days for four university departments to approve the application, according to the school's website. Applications must be endorsed by the Office of Campus Life, the UCO Student Association, the school's Senate and House of Representatives, and the vice president for student affairs.

/sa240 Miller called the lengthy process "pretty bizarre." She told Cybercast News Service it's "like the 'chicken and the egg' thing - how can you start a group if you can't recruit?"

She said she didn't understand the process because "you have to recruit the people to start the group before you can start the process because you have to have the people."

In a statement released by the Leadership Institute, Cleek called on the university to "end this bureaucratic process which stifles the First Amendment rights of students."

He called it "outrageous that students have to jump through so many hoops and pay $200 just to have their voices heard on campus."

Student groups are required to pay the $200 fee to reserve a recruitment table on campus.

UCO Director of University Relations Charlie Johnson referred questions to Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Cole Stanley, who did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

The recruiting restrictions and fees are applicable to all student groups, according to the school's website. Miller said she "would hope" it is enforced fairly.

"I can't say for certain this was the case in this [situation]," Miller said, "but what we have found is the process of starting conservative clubs on campuses is often made much more difficult than it is for starting others."

Miller said the students are committed to getting the policies changed. She did not rule out pursuing legal action against the school on First Amendment grounds but said "the first option would always be through diplomatic means."