Va. Tech yanks funding for conservative group over Bay Buchanan immigration speech

A conservative group at Virginia Tech is fighting back after a student-run group pulled its funding following a speech on illegal immigration by former U.S. Treasurer Bay Buchanan.

Young Americans for Freedom, which co-sponsored the speech by the conservative pundit and sister of former presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan with the school's College Republicans, is appealing a decision made by the university’s Student Budget Board. The board denied the group funding for an already-scheduled speech by (former GOP presidential candidate) Herman Cain, as well as all other aid for the rest of the year.

“It is an outrageous effort on the part of these students to control speech to determine what is said and how it’s said,” said Buchanan, who described the standing-room-only Oct. 28 event as featuring spirited debate by both sides. “It is a great right to be able to speak our mind and make our arguments passionately and listen to the other side."


But the trouble began before the event, when a flyer circulated by YAF touting Buchanan's apperance and alluding to an "alien invasion" caught the attention of Latino groups on campus. The Latino Association of Student Organizations reacted angrily on its Facebook page.

“The combination of language and imagery is offensive, insensitive and a blatant act of disrespect towards the immigrant community and the Virginia Tech community at large,” read a statement published on the page.

The College Republicans sided with LASO on the flyer and created a new one, according to Lauren McCue, chairwoman of Virginia Tech’s Young Americans for Freedom Chapter.

Max Frischman, chairman of the Student Budget Board, did not respond to a request for an interview. But the faculty advisor for the Budget Board, Steve Burrell, said in an e-mail that YAF pulled a bait and switch.

“The board was extremely frustrated with the organization regarding the Bay Buchanan event since the written and verbal description of the event was very different from what was advertised as the event," Burrell said. "So the board unanimously voted to deny funding.”


McCue said the funding cut decision will also affect future conservative voices from speaking at the school, including an appearance by Cain.

“They had approved it for $5,000 but ever since this event, they said they’re restricting our funding effective immediately for the next two semesters,” said McCue. “They were kind of saying well, how do we know he’s not going to speak on something that’s controversial? We can’t hold you guys accountable anymore. That’s why we’re not going to fund you.”

Buchanan believes the decision was a violation of the First Amendment and claimed that after the debate, a Latino student told her he thought it was "a great debate," although he did not like the first flyer.

“I told him it was provocative," Buchanan said. "You want people to come. You want to provoke them into coming and speaking for themselves. Well, you guys did it. You did a great job.”

Virginia Tech Vice President of University Relations Lawrence Hincker said he strongly recommends that the student group, YAF, appeal the decision by the Student Budget Board -- which makes decisions on their own and are independent from the University. But Virginia Tech has the final say in this matter after an appeal is made by YAF, according to Hincker.

“Clearly, the University has the authority to allocate those funds, because the monies were given to the Student Budget Board. So can the University overturn a decision? The answer is yes. The University finds this concerning…big universities, like Virginia Tech, strongly encourage student leadership development."