With a week before the big debut, our team managed to garner attention campus-wide. We got over 30 sign-ups, countless free-speech wall participants, and tremendous professor support. The USF’s YAL chapter had a successful first recruitment week. However, the free-speech wall itself may have garnered far more attention than the campus movie debut in its entirety. So did USF get the joke?
Minutes before the screening of “Can We Take A Joke?” students and a professor of the USF Black Student Union confronted our team about the ethics of our organization. Our free-speech wall was offensive and apparently promoted a space for violence on campus.
Our team remained professional and insisted on building a coalition between the two organizations, but unfortunately the BSU members were more concerned in our differences. Additionally, the president of USF BSU had asserted that the political power of her organization could and would compromise the recognition of our organization on campus. Our executive board will be meeting with their board, as well as various school officials next week to discuss the goals and future of USF YAL.
After the confrontation with BSU, we finally held the event, where more than twenty people showed up. At the beginning of the movie, it sounded very much like a tough crowd. However after indulging in countless jokes and interviews, the crowd loosened up. Following the movie was the discussion. A totally awesome dialogue on free speech. The conversation was thought-provoking, engaging, and self-sustaining. We had input from people of all backgrounds.
Other students had concerns that phrases as simple as Trump’s “Make America Great Again” could be perceived as invoking violence; that supporting a candidate could mean violence. In the end, our audience left with a more-positive look on free speech. A totally successful and rich debate.
The future of USF YAL is in good sight. Our team is committed to changing policy at USF, and engaging our fellow students in the dialogue of personal liberties and freedoms. We will continue to empower our peers by promoting individual rights and denouncing oppressive governments