At UNC Charlotte, we have free speech codes that prohibit free speech outside of two “zones.” Our chapter wanted to do what we could to not only educate students and bring awareness about these zones, but we wanted to use civil disobedience to not only challenge and protest them.
We had tried using a free speech wall before, and while it was wildly successful, we wanted something more visible and fun to interact with. We decided to go with free speech balls.
Normally when student organizations organize free speech ball events, they have one ball that they roll around campus to help raise awareness for the ideas of free expression. We decided it was a good idea, but opted for a bolder plan.
We acquired one 12-foot and four 8-foot balls for our Speak Freely event, so that we could spread awareness to every part of campus and increase the number of people who interacted with the event. We made sure to have enough clipboards and signup sheets for the event, and worked out team schedules so everyone knew where they were supposed to be, and at what time. We also determined that we would need air pumps, since attempts at blowing them up by mouth proved ineffective.
Each ball was manned by three people. Two people would distribute sign-up sheets to students who supported the ideas of free speech, and the other person distributed the markers to the students who signed the sheet so that they could sign the ball.
When we approached students we first asked them if they were aware of UNC Charlotte’s free speech zones. Only one of the students (out of the thousands that we talked to that day) was even aware that their right to speak freely was being suppressed.