Constitution Week at Marshall University was a huge success! Our YAL chapter built a free speech wall outside the student center. We chose to do the free speech wall because free speech is a huge issue on our campus. FIRE recently ranked us in the top twenty worse schools for free speech in the United States. We wanted to bring attention to this with students and it was a big success!
We tabled all day Wednesday passing out materials, getting sign-ups, and talking with students as well as faculty. We went through more than 600 pocket Constitutions by 2:00 p.m. By the end of the day we had forty sign-ups for our next meeting!
I truly enjoyed the wall because of the amazing discussions that took place around it. Students who disagreed about something said on the wall were talking out their points, wish our congress could do the same. Faculty stopped by to talk to us about the wall as well as talk with students. Throughout the day we also got to discuss YAL and the wall with MU Report and our local channel three news station.
The wall was so covered that I had to return every morning the wall was up to put more paper up. The wall ended after three days but it caught the entire campuses attention. Students even came into the Student Government meeting to bring their concerns about free speech to light with the student senate. Though we had originally been apprehensive about the school’s response we only had one incident of a administrator finding issue with the wall. I walked by the wall after an evening class to find this individual taking paper off the wall. I later discovered that it was because a student had expressed an opinion about her on the wall.
We had our follow up meeting on September 24th, containing a small panel consisting of Professor Beller and Paul Sheridan. Professor Beller is the political science department chair for Marshall and Paul is leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union. We had about thirty students show up for the meeting and it was a lively debate. Though Professor Beller is pro-free speech on campus she argued the con side. My fellow members did not realize this until later and almost strung me up in the middle of the meeting. It was successful though because member had to think out their opinions and it was very informative.
In conclusion, the free speech wall was a huge success. It got the entire campuses attention and I truly think the students know we are now on campus. Students are now thinking about free speech and the movement to reform the student code of conduct has already begun.