Prometheus Society 2011: Kenny Tan

Kenny Tan is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University,
Kenny Tan, Vanderbilt University president and founder of his campus’s chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), and served as a FIRE intern in the summer of 2011. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he first heard about FIRE through a YAL newsletter, and soon after requested copies of FIRE’s Guides to Student Rights on Campus and attended the 2010 Campus Freedom Network conference. His experience at the conference as well as with the Guides inspired him to defend liberty at Vanderbilt.

“FIRE’s Guides to Student Rights on Campus and FIRE’s 2010 CFN annual summer conference inspired me to become a catalyst for change on my university’s campus,” Kenny remembers. “I greatly enjoyed attending this absolutely fantastic networking opportunity with some of the nation’s brightest scholars. In addition, FIRE’s speech code report and its ratings of specific policies at Vanderbilt made the job of bringing attention to these policies and advocating for change so much easier. As the founder and president of the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at Vanderbilt, I have had to opportunity to witness the importance of preserving the right to free expression on college campuses. Leading a student organization which often controversially exercises this right, I also wanted to make sure this right is protected across the political and ideological spectrum.”

Through this last year, Kenny has taken every step to ensure that those rights are indeed protected at Vanderbilt. He has been published in his campus newspaper four times: once expressing concerns about Vanderbilt’s “Community Creed,” which was presented during freshman orientation and had the potential to silence the individual beliefs and values of incoming students; once regarding an interview he had with a Vanderbilt professor who had expressed support for campus policies that would restrict certain types of student speech; and twice to point out sections of Vanderbilt policy that FIRE had deemed probelmatic. He also arranged for FIRE’s Adam Kissel to speak on campus about student rights, met with his dean of students to discuss the aforementioned problematic policies, and served on a student panel for a discussion about the implementation of a bias response system at Vanderbilt.

Kenny knows what he wants to do after he graduates. “I hope to continue with a career in liberty defending students’ rights and promoting activism on campus,” he says. “Ultimately, I would like to start my own version of d’Anconia Copper.”