Student leaders at George Mason University, claiming the revolution in El Salvador is Communist-inspired, have refused to recognize a campus group that supports that country's leftist guerrillas.
"I don't think communism has any place on our campuses," said Andrew Hendrickson, a leader of the College Republicans and the university's Mormon group, who successfully urged other student leaders to vote against the Committee in Solidarity With The Peoples of El Salvador.
Administration officials at the Fairfax-based state university said yesterday the action marked the first time in recent years a student group has been denied recognition. The decision bars the group from using some campus facilities, receiving any funds or hanging posters in campus buildings.
"It's probably a reflection of the trend toward a moral conservative approach and toward the New Right," said student activities director Ken Kelly. Kelly said school administrators are considering overturning the decision made Feb. 18 by the university's Inter-Club Council.
Kelly said the council is composed of representatives from 115 official student organizations ranging from fundamentalist religious groups to a gay rights' coalition. University regulations prohibit the council from denying a group official status "based on social, political or religious considerations."
The solidarity group's rejection has provoked something of a furor on the normally quiet campus, which draws 13,000 commuting students. Some campus leaders, however, insist the issue, the subject of letters and editorials in the student newspaper, has been overblown.
"The accusation that George Mason has a very limited political point of view doesn't hold water," said Frank Mazzuca, chairman of the Inter-Clujb Council who voted against the group. "After all, George McGovern was here," he said, referring to the former Democratic senator from South Dakota who appeared on campus earlier this week.
If they were an organization formed to learn about El Salvador that would be okay, but the name of the group implies solidarity and they didn't seem to know much about what was going on" in the tiny Central American country, Mazzuca said. "We're not arguing against freedom of speech -- we're saying they didn't explain their purpose."
"This is a temporary organization that might only last a semester and then it would be abolished," said Hendrickson. "I told the council that we should only recognize clubs that would be of continuous benefit to students."
But Blaine Coleman, a sponsor of the solidarity group, said the council previously approved temporary groups in support of various presidential candidates and in opposition to the draft.
"The opponents made it sound like the Communists might slither in and disseminate some false information," said Coleman. "Their reasons are 100 percent in violation of the First Amendment. I think the council made a mistake."