Haley, a junior majoring in sociology and legal studies and the director of communications for Young Americans for Liberty at UW-Madison, has helped lead her group through a busy year promoting free speech rights on campus. The recipe for success? A healthy dose of creativity.
The group exemplified its creative spirit with “Old Americans for Tyranny vs. Young Americans for Liberty.” For this event, Haley said the chapter split into two—half of their members dressed normally, while the other half donned old-fashioned gowns, vest, suits, and flannels. The costumed crew squared off against the Young Americans for Liberty, with each side picketing opposing viewpoints. A free speech wall divided the debaters and encouraged student involvement. The event was a big success. “It was so much fun, I didn’t want our event to end. Passersby got quite a kick out of it, and everyone was welcome to write whatever they wanted on our giant free speech wall,” Haley said.
UW-Madison YAL kept the momentum going with an event called “Civil Liberties Graveyard.” Haley said the group wanted to “draw attention to the government’s infringement of everything from freedom of the press to the right to privacy.” Using painted cardboard pieces modeled after grave stones, the group paid homage to commonly violated rights. “Our Civil Liberties Graveyard brought a lot of shock to students’ faces, when they were reminded just how much of our rights are being infringed upon,” Haley said.
Ironically, UW-Madison YAL has encountered university administrators who have cautioned the group about exercising its First Amendment rights. Haley said the group was confronted by building administrators “condescendingly asking ‘if we had a reservation to table there,’ and saying things like, ‘Remember, you’re not allowed to approach the students, they must approach you.’ But we did have a reservation, and continued to approach students regardless, with no repercussions that day.”
Want to replicate UW-Madison YAL’s success? Haley says, “My biggest suggestion to student groups is to work with the numerous organizations affiliated with your cause to help you get off the ground and keep running.” She adds that organizations like FIRE are “unbelievably helpful in putting on events and providing materials and manpower.”
We salute Haley and her group for their efforts this past semester! Of course, FIRE stands by ready to help student groups from across the political spectrum advocate on behalf of civil liberties and free speech on their campuses.
Are you interested in holding a free speech wall or other free speech event on campus? Have you held a successful event and want to share? Want to nominate yourself or someone you know for Student Spotlight? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!