Two student organizations were on a roll celebrating free speech this past week.
On Monday, student representatives from Students For Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty stood in front of Trojan Center, recruiting Troy students to sign a beach ball expressing their freedom of speech in honor of Constitution Day.
“One of the biggest parts of college is learning new things and having a diverse amount of ideas,” said Jeremiah Baky, a political science major from Dauphin Island and the Alabama state chair for the Young Americans for Liberty.
“With the diverse amount of ideas comes the first amendment and freedom of speech, and we want students to be able to exercise their freedom of speech in celebration of Constitution Day.”
According to constitutionday.com, Constitution Day commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution by “39 brave men on Sept. 17, 1787, recognizing all who, by being born in the U.S. or by naturalization, have become citizens.”
“This (beach ball event) was originally implemented at a university in Texas about four years ago,” Baky said. “This is actually the third year we’ve done it here at Troy.”
Baky said that one problem in the education system is that sometimes schools tend to forget that students are adults, and they do have rights. He said the organization hopes students express themselves freely across campus and exercise their first amendment rights.
“Troy especially has many expression policies, and this is just tacked onto that,” Baky said.
According to studentsforliberty.org, other schools, such as Salem College and UNC Charlotte, are also using the beach ball as a way to reach out to students on Constitution Day, and get them to voice their freedom of speech.
“On Constitution Day (in 2015) almost all the campus passed the massive ball and signed it,” according to an article titled “Free Speech Rings in North Carolina.” “Faculty, deans, and Salem College staff workers also stopped by to sign and show their support.”
UNC Charlotte hosted a similar event on their campus according to an article written my Christoper Nasko, a Students for Liberty Campus Coordinator.
They collected “over 800 signatures in a matter of 4.5 hours,” on the five large sized beach balls passed around campus.
Caitlin Shelton, a sophomore chemistry major from Decatur, had the opportunity to sign the beach ball on Troy’s campus and said she was pleased that students were encouraged to speak freely.
“I really liked that they had students come up to sign the ball, I figured it was a good way to get students involved,” Shelton said. “It was a good way to express free speech because we could write whatever we wanted to.”
The organization got positive feedback from students who participated in the event.
“I’m glad we get the chance to express our rights on campus,” Shelton said. “Even though it was just a beach ball, I liked the overall concept and what the organization was trying to get across.”
The beach ball was the only event done for Constitution Day this year. In the future, Students For Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty plan on hosting more events to advocate for free speech across campus.
“In the coming weeks we plan on petitioning the university to change our speech policy to the Chicago principles that was implemented at the University of Chicago,” Baky said. “It has been fully endorsed by FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, who works with colleges to get better first amendment and freedom of speech on campus.”
The University of Chicago released a free speech policy in early 2015 that provides freedom(s) to the University community:
“Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of the University, the University of Chicago fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the University community ‘to discuss any problem that presents itself.’”
Gordon Miller, a first year masters’ student studying economics from Atmore, is the state chair for Alabama and Georgia’s Students for Liberty.
“I hope they (students) are more aware of the first amendment rights that they have,” Miller said. “I hope they feel inspired to actually do something about the constitution speech because it exists on Troy University’s campus.”