The Auburn YAL chapter has garnered much attention from around the country over the past two weeks as a result of its recent spearheading of a bold protest on the Auburn University campus. The Auburn University, a publicly funded institution, has a set of policies in place that greatly restrict the 1st Amendment Rights of not only its students, but of any individuals present on campus.
In an effort to raise awareness of the speech codes policies on campus and encourage free speech for all, several of our members took to the concourse without a permit sporting blank t-shirts and began asking those passing through to write whatever they disliked about the university or whatever they wanted to. The results was a very thought-provoking glance into the minds of the Auburn student body.
According to Auburn’s questionable set of policies, any exercise of free speech must be relegated to one of several designated “Free Speech Zones” (all of which are in locations far from the center of campus with very low foot-traffic) located around the university. However, as though the notion of designated “Free Speech Zones” was not enough, any individual or group of individuals seeking to use these zones to voice their message must first apply for and obtain University permission in advance, as well as disclose what exactly will be said.
As Liberty lovers, we here at the Auburn YAL chapter abhorrently disagree with both the set of speech codes and the mentality behind them. As such, we took it upon ourselves to stage something of a demonstration, with assistance from Gordon Miller of the Troy University YAL chapter.
Roughly three hours into the demonstration, several of our members were approached by a representative of the Auburn Administration, accompanied by two member of the Auburn Police Department. After being told that we did not acquire any sort of permit to exercise of right to freedom of speech, the woman promptly asked us to leave. She informed us that we may return once we had obtained a permit. Fortunately for us, just before this interaction occurred, Corey Williams of the Auburn Plainsman approached us for an interview on what we were doing, and recorded the entire interaction on tape. Williams later wrote a brief editorial covering the incident, which you can read here
While many may have been discouraged by the events that transpired, we at the Auburn YAL chapter have only been reassured that the cause of free speech on campus is one that we must continue to fight for. Since this event, much pressure has been placed upon the University to alter its policies; whether or not these pressures will yield results, only time will tell.