Free Speech Brings in the Masses at Marshall University

Caitlin Grimes
Feb 24, 2014 at 2:57 PM

The spring semester at Marshall University started off with huge success for our Young Americans for Liberty chapter. The first few weeks our chapter spent a lot of time and resources tabling for the recruitment drive. Using some of the amazing resources that YAL provided us we had a great deal of participation in the student center.

The World’s Smallest Political Quiz was a hit with administration, students, and even faculty who all stopped to see who they were closest to on the diagram. A lot of students were surprised to find their location was not where they had expected, many of them realizing they favored more conservative fiscal policy and others more protection of rights. Though highly controversial, we did give liberty pong a shot but it was not popular with the administration though we reminded them it was just water. We also used this recruitment drive to push our then upcoming event with a speaker from FIRE!

Our Table in the student center got a lot of attention!

Due to weather our follow up meeting was not largely successful, with only a few new members stopping by to check out what are chapter was all about. We followed up the next week however with an interesting meeting that brought out new and returning chapter members.

We had two speakers from the Heritage Foundation come and discuss their Sentinel program as well as how to hold our elected official accountable for their actions on legislation. It was an interesting meeting discussing the poor scores of Senator Manchin as well as Representatives Capito and Rahall. The discussion went into how calling and emailing your representatives can truly make a difference. Students gave a positive response to this and many decided to join the sentinel program!

Our biggest goal for this recruitment drive was not only to get new chapter members but to spread the word about our event that was on February 17, where we brought out Will Creeley, an executive at FIRE, to speak to students about the speech codes at Marshall. It has become a mission of our chapter to educate students about the horrible speech codes Marshall University employs.

In 2011, our university was ranked in the top twelve worst schools for free speech in the ENTIRE country. The codes are so vague and subjective that many students can be brought up on harassment charges for speech that are actually in all reality, constitutional protected. Our chapter has taken on this fight by beginning to talk to student government and the administration about beginning the revision to these codes.

What is unfortunate is the administration has communicated to students as well as FIRE that the process has been started, when in reality it is not on any agenda. We brought Will to campus to kick start our petition process to the administration for revisions to the speech code. You can look at the article from our school newspaper in 2011 discussing this.

Our free speech event was a huge success! We had a packed room with barely any empty seats in the house. We got over four pages of new sign-ups interested in learning about our chapter.

To make it even more exciting, Delegates Sobonya, Miller, and Folk of the West Virginia Legislature made an appearance. They stayed after the presentation was over to discuss with students a bill that want to propose in the house that would support free speech in public universities state wide. Students responded to Will’s presentation with surprise at the insane charges students at other universities have had to face due to the codes that mirror our own.

The event went on for almost an extra hour due to students discussing the code and asking questions. We also passed out copies of FIRE’s “A Guide to Free Speech on Campus.” Since we had such a large success with our free speech wall last semester we decided also to start a Free Speech Banner at this event, so we could keep it for future events and to help with the petition process. The event ended with the presentation of our chapter’s petition, and we are excited to say we are off to a great start on signatures!

We had a crowd at our Free Speech Event!

President Caitlin Grimes discusses Young American's for Liberty and the Free Speech Petition.

Will Creeley talks about the horrible charges students have had to face because of unconstitutional speech codes.

Overall it has been an exciting start to the spring semester here at Marshall University. We received new sign-ups, signatures for our petition, as well as local media coverage for our event (sadly, our flip camera died on us so no videos). We plan to continue collected signatures and tabling for free speech until the administration responds in a positive manner. And check out our coverage in the campus paper! (Read the article here.)

Our free speech event made front page news!

Awesome, nice work Caitlin!

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