Wow! What a way to start my first semester of college! Along with the normal drudgery of classes and a top-ranked football team, I had the opportunity to join the University of Houston chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. From the get-go, I was taken on a ride of new ideas and situations that I had never encountered before. Among these new situations was the free speech ball event that took place on September 19th. Funny enough, I had actually thought that when Michael Anderson, our chapter president, mentioned a free speech ball, I was under the impression that the event was going to be a dance benefiting awareness of the suppression of the first amendment on college campuses. Imagines my surprise when the first thing I see walking to the event was a gigantic beach ball covered in writing. It was there that I saw Michael and our friends from the Leadership Institute encouraging people to express themselves however they please and giving away constitutions to anyone passing by.
To establish some context, the University of Houston has several “Free Speech Zones”, one being in Butler Plaza in front of the library, and then one near the Satellite, a fast-food restaurant hub. At the beginning of the free speech event, we were situated at the Satellite. However, as the event went on, we decided to truly exercise our first amendment rights. We preceded outside of the prescribed “Free Speech Zone” to display our ball and to tell anyone willing to listen our mission of abolishing “Free Speech Zones” all together. For the most part, rolling the ball around campus was smooth sailing. We got several dozen people to sign the ball and gave them a brand new constitution to peruse. Countless students said “we love and support what you are doing!” That day we ended up getting 165 students signing up for YAL and endorsing free speech on our campus. It wasn’t until the end of our free speech event that things got a bit more interesting. The president of the Student Governing Association saw us and encountered us. Michael and I explained our cause. Afterwards, Michael and the gentlemen had a short discussion on the nature of free speech on campus.
What’s important about events like these is the reminder that we have a fundamental right to express ourselves in any fashion we choose, as long as we do not violate the rights of others. However, on college campuses around the nation, this right is being diluted for the sake of the feelings of sensitive students. “Free Speech Zones”, “Safe Spaces”, and “Trigger Warnings” are attempts to assist students in evading the necessity of listening to differing opinions and pondering whether their own ideas can stand up in the face of new information. For the sake of innovation and freedom, we have to unite and answer these authoritarian rules with an emphatic “no”.Published in