The topic of free speech on college campuses has become an incredibly heated issue, thus I believe it is our duty as liberty lovers to defend our rights to free speech. Luckily, Young Americans for Liberty, Students For Liberty, FIRE and many more great organizations provide excellent resources to aid student groups in their fight for free speech. On my campus, The Ohio State University, our YAL group has chosen to fight for free speech via implementing a free speech statement. Our work is not complete yet but we have learned much during the process. So here’s the blueprint we have done at The Ohio State University to change the narrative of free speech in 6 simple steps.
Step 1) Reach out to existing organizations with expertise on free speech
Liberty minded think tanks and organizations love to help out student organizations, and connecting with them is as simple an email. We found the organization FIRE to be extremely helpful by providing us with many great resources. FIRE connected us with a one on one skype meeting with a free speech lawyer and he was able to lay out the best approach toward free speech activism and give us insight on the infringement on free speech at OSU.
Step 2) Develop a formal free speech document
Once we became more informed on the topic of free speech, we decided to develop a free speech statement, similar to the University of Chicago. A free speech statement is effective because it gives validation to your cause rather than simply stating that you support free speech. The free speech statement lays out the specific role that a University has in governing free speech and emphasizes its limitations. Luckily, FIRE provides student organizations with a free speech statement template which has been written by their lawyers and it is as easy as inputting your University name.
Step 3) Create strategic goals with your group to best implement your free speech statement.
We decided to create a petition for the free speech statement, something students could sign to show they supported document. By quickly google searching a petition template and adding a brief summary of our free speech statement our petition was created. We then made it a goal to have at least 200 students sign the petition and 10 student organizations co-sign the statement (We far exceeded those numbers).
Step 4) Host an activism event to gather student signatures
We found that the most effective way to get sign ups for our free speech statement was to do an activism event. We chose to do a free speech ball because it attracts a lot of students that otherwise would not be interested in interacting with our liberty-minded group. We would have the students sign the ball then immediately ask them if they wanted to sign our petition to help secure free speech at OSU via a free speech statement. Almost every student that signed the ball wanted to sign the petition. Overall, we were able to gather 500 total petition signatures over the period of 3 days.
Step 5) Reach out to other student organizations to co-sign the free speech statement
Creating a coalition of student organizations to co-sign your free speech statement is far more persuasive to student administrators than only your YAL group. I would recommend reaching out to clubs that have a key interest in free speech and also pull from a wide variety of backgrounds which might include conservative clubs, fraternities, Hispanic club, journalism club, debate club etc. I would recommend getting at least 10 to co-sign but it could be less depending on the size of your University.
Step 6) Present your free speech statement to your student government and student administrators
Student governments usually don’t have a direct role in changing student codes, however, they put massive pressure on university administrators to implement the resolutions that they pass. I would recommend presenting your free speech statement to your student government by greatly emphasizing the student signatures and club co-signatures that you’ve gathered. If the student government passes your free speech statement, I would then recommend contacting FIRE to write out the exact wording that needs to be revised in order to adhere to the constitution. You will then meet with campus administrators with all of your hard work and ideally they will implement the changes to the student codes.
If your student group is able to complete all of these steps get in contact with YAL or your respective liberty organization and reach out to as many news outlets as possible to get the word out about your awesome work.
If you have any questions regarding these steps feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and also contact YAL about free speech activism because they will provide your student group amazing resources to change the narrative of free speech on your campus.