For the first time in the history of the club, the Young Americans for Liberty at UIUC were threatened to have the campus police called if we didn’t pack up our table and leave the quad.
The group, shortly after setting up, now ready to go.
On Thursday, we held an event to promote discussion on the school administration’s plans to enact a smoking ban in November of 2013. Borrowing the idea from Carlos Alfaro and Moriah Costa, Students For Liberty Executive Board Members and students at Arizona State University, our chapter hosted the event to emphasize the importance of keeping personal decisions just that — personal.
At noon, we set up a table that had donuts and cigarettes at one end contrasted by the apples and anti-smoking leaflets at the other. The point we were making was that choosing a healthy lifestyle over an unhealthy one should be left-up to individuals, or more concretely, having some students choose apples over donuts being just as applicable to smoking.
Crowds of students gathering around to see what we were doing.
Everything was going along as expected; students had to double and triple take when they heard us yelling “free doughnuts, free apples, free cigarettes, and anti-smoking literature; it’s your choice.” Fortunately, as we’ve found in the past, the best way to get people to stop and talk to you is to make them interested in finding out what you’re doing. Unfortunately, our vocalizations also caught the attention of the Registered Student Organization office.
Roughly 30 minutes after setting up, we were told that if we did not pack-up our things and leave the Quad in five minutes, the campus police would be called because handing out cigarettes was in violation of the student code. So, I went to the office to talk to the supervisor. At this point, I must stress that no matter how hostile the administration may be towards you, remaining calm and level-headed is of utmost importance in such a situation.
I respectfully asked the supervisor if they could tell me what section of the student code we were in violation of. When met with a hostile and snide remark, I put on my most friendly smile and told them that it would be greatly appreciated if I could be made aware of the offense I was being charged with committing.
I had done research into Illinois law, as well as University regulations concerning tobacco and its distribution, and knew that our organization was in the right and that it was my duty to my members, as my given title of “Fearless Leader” mandates, to defend our right to put on this event.
After waiting for a response and much hushed conversation between staff for about 15 minutes, I was told by the Illini Union Building Supervisor that I could return to the Quad to continue our event and that if I was given any hassle, to send the critic to him. With this immense hurdle overcome and now an ally gained, I returned to my waiting group, fist raised, to pass-on the good news and continue our protest.
With this difficulty out of the way, our group, invigorated by our victory over the authoritative clamoring of the University, went on host our chapter’s most successful event. We were happy to find that many students agreed with us that the paternalistic policies of the University had no place on a public university campus. We urged students to contact their student senators to promote a discussion within the legislative side of the University.
So many people looking to get involved with the club.
When all was said and done, after four hours on the Quad, we had given out over 80 cigarettes, 75 apples, 175 doughnut holes, and talked to over 200 people. Even if students, as individuals, have relatively little say in the University’s policies, we are hopeful that we can promote discussion enough to bring this issue to the public arena for discussion where the voices of students can be considered.
The event was also covered by the school newspaper and was the headline story the following day, featuring a quote from myself, explaining how we were supporting students’ right to choose how they live their lives. The story was also featured on the newspaper’s website.
The headline story in the newspaper. For the full article, follow this link.