Howdy from Texas A&M! Coming out of a strong recruitment season with significant chapter growth, we sought to increase the scope and notoriety of our chapter to further advance the cause of liberty on our campus. One of the first methods was to provide a way for students to learn more about their First Amendment rights. To do so, we invited Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) attorney Joe Cohn to present on that subject, accompanied by a delicious catered dinner.
Naturally, such an event was meant to spark a discussion on students’ rights and encourage passionate activism on campus. Although YAL members would clearly benefit from the lecture, we decided to open the event up to the campus community in an effort to encourage open debate on campus. To paraphrase a quote from author Jonathan Rauch, “How do we even know if our ideas are good or not if they haven’t been subject to public discourse?”
Recognizing the Constitutional right to the freedom of expression, great discussions and fiery rhetoric should appear in public discourse without fear of legal reprisals. To that end, the campus community should feel invigorated and empowered to express unpopular and wild opinions on any issue that may arise, which in turn will lead to a greater understanding of a vast number of subjects and ideas.
In preparation for this event, our chapter faithfully tabled several times the week before to recruit students and spread our name. Handing out copies of Students for Liberty’s (SFL) collection of essays, Peace, Love, and Liberty, there was significant interest in our table, especially by members of Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets (a program similar to ROTC). Alongside the books, materials from YAL, such as pamphlets about the costs of war and political factoid cards, also caught the eye of passersby.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, we constructed a large Free Speech Wall (thanks to a grant from YAL national) to encourage free expression and debate. In a matter of hours the entire wall was covered in a myriad of slogans, pictures, and opinions. One effective way of convincing students to participate was by having YAL members venture out onto adjacent sidewalks, spreading the word and encouraging people to come see the Wall. As the most prominent libertarian organization on campus, YAL is the only group that actively encourages free expression, and the Wall was a novelty for students who had never participated in such an event.
Culminating with the Friday night FIRE event, the whole week was quite a success. In the span of a week, our chapter dramatically increased its profile on campus. We will continue to table, host events, and engage in activism in the hope that YAL will be first in students’ minds when they think about liberty-minded groups on campus.
Active engagement was the key to our success, as we approached hundreds of students with our materials instead of sitting behind a table and hoping people would stop by. Also, making an announcement to our classes also helped in getting the word out, because a classroom is effectively a captive audience. And when the professor supports the freedom of expression, he or she is more likely to make the announcement for you! Altogether, enthusiastic participation on the part of YAL chapter members and active engagement with the campus community led to attention and recognition by the student body.
Spreading the cause of liberty is certainly a noble goal, and I am personally excited to see how not only my chapter grows, but how the nationwide movement expands and gains influence. We are the future leaders, and what we do now to engage our fellow students will have impacts that last throughout our lifetimes!
As we like to say here at Texas A&M, “Thanks and Gig ’em!”Published in