VEISHEA is undeniably the largest celebration at Iowa State University every year. It stands for the five colleges at the University at the time of its founding in 1922: Veterinary Medicine, Engineering, Industrial Science, Home Economics, and Agriculture. Every year during VEISHEA, ISU plays host to music artists, celebrities, United States presidents, and some of the best cherry pies you’ve ever tasted. This year, however, something new was causing a buzz during VEISHEA: the Young Americans for Liberty Free Speech Wall.
For three days between April 16 and April 20, our chapter featured a Free Speech Wall in front of Parks Library and in central campus at VEISHEA Village. We encouraged students, faculty, and the general public to write whatever they wanted to on the Free Speech Wall. Many people were confused by the idea of writing whatever they wanted, but several brave people came forward to express themselves on the wall.
While occasionally there were messages that society would deem rude and offensive, the overall message on the board seemed positive. The beauty, we found, of free speech is that if someone says something negative, many others can say positive things louder. There doesn’t need to be a governing body that controls who can say what; society controls what should and shouldn’t be said by itself based on public response.
The purpose of the Free Speech Wall was to expand the ideals of free speech at Iowa State University. Currently, less than 2% of the ISU campus is designated as a “free speech zone” despite the fact that it is a public university. These zones were implemented during the Vietnam War to bring some order to the student protests. If students want to promote their ideals or an organization that they are a member of, they must do it in two small areas on campus.
Our chapter finds it ludicrous that a public university can pick places where our First Amendment does not apply. We collected signatures on a petition that would expand free speech zones beyond the current areas, and ideally remove the idea of restricted free speech altogether.
With the help of many students, faculty members, and people in the Ames area, we managed to collect 1,129 signatures. This summer, we will be working with Government of the Student Body President Spencer Hughes in order to come up with a proposal for the administration of the university. We hope that come fall semester, we will have a meeting with the administration to right this wrong that has existed on our campus for over 40 years.Published in