Alex Anderson is a junior at the University of North Texas (UNT), where she is ramping up the student movement for free speech on campus. As a public relations and strategic communications major, Alex has been applying her ingenuity in marketing to the fight for freedom of expression.
Historically, student activists at universities across the country have had success erecting free speech walls—temporary surfaces that encourage passersby to express themselves freely in ink or paint. Putting a fresh spin on a time-tested idea, Alex worked with the UNT Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter to create a free speech ball, a seven-foot-tall inflatable yellow beach ball. The group rolled the ball around campus inviting members of the student body, faculty, and staff to write freely on the ball’s surface.
UNT currently has a “red light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database, so Alex and her cohorts in Texas have their work cut out for them. However, they’re off to a great start.
The FIRE Student Network’s Student Spotlight congratulates Alex and the UNT YAL group for their efforts to promote free expression and civil liberties on campus. FIRE stands by ready to help students and student groups from across the ideological spectrum advocate for their moral and legal rights.
The FIRE Student Network asked Alex to share her experience promoting free expression at UNT:
FSN: What got you started promoting student rights at the University of North Texas?
Political activism is something that has forever been near and dear to my heart. Coming from a very politically aware and engaged household, individual liberty has always stood out as a cause that is beyond important to defend. Upon starting college, I began searching for a group with similar interests. Quickly coming across the UNT Young Americans for Liberty chapter, I’ve been working alongside fellow members to advance freedom ever since.
FSN: What have you been doing on campus to raise awareness of student rights?
I have mostly helped at SFL [Students For Liberty] and YAL tables that our group has run both on campus and at events in the area, as well as promoting speakers and special agendas for the weekly meetings. Brainstorming ideas for creative demonstrations has been my latest focus, however, so hopefully we can execute more of those starting this fall.
FSN: Tell us about your free speech ball event. What inspired you to do this event?
Despite frequent effort by college campuses to suppress the freedoms of students across the country, it’s alarming how few stop to even realize it. So fundamentally important, freedom of speech serves as a springboard to connect all other issues. From here the idea was born as a way to focus on the growing threat to liberty and remind our peers that it’s up to us to get the reformative ball rolling.
We inflated the seven-foot-tall yellow beach “Liberty Ball” and rolled it around campus one afternoon, encouraging students to sign as an illustration of their basic rights. There was also a strategic social media campaign leading up to the event itself. Liberty Ball tweeted under the handle @FreedomFenders spreading word of the mission. Mini plastic Liberty Balls were placed around campus days before, advertising the hashtag #getrollingUNT and event date as well.
FSN: What has the student response been?
The student response was absolutely fabulous. The Liberty Ball stirred up a great deal of excitement and seemed to get a lot of people thinking. It was a great way to capture attention and the chance to engage tons of new faces on a widespread, effective scale.
FSN: How can other students get involved in the fight for student rights on campus?
The fight for student rights on campus begins with you. Simple interest in issues you see firsthand is the beginning of taking on the battle. Engage the discussion and get people thinking. College campuses have the propensity for breeding flocks of “sheeple,” but we have the power to be the needed wake up call.
FSN: Anything else you would like to share?
It’s important to tie in issues through presentations that effectively resonate with the greater, not necessarily as engaged student body. Making points that stick in their minds and inspire action is critical. Speakers, debate, and tabling are all great ways to promote your message, but being able to market and present it in practical yet unconventional ways can be a crucial, differentiating asset. In order to flourish, you need an audience that’s listening. As the beloved fallen activist Andrew Breitbart always said, “If you can’t sell freedom and liberty, you suck!”