Eastern Michigan University’s chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) created free speech walls to raise student awareness of the First Amendment rights on Constitution Day, Wednesday morning near the Olds Robb Recreation Center.
Alison Basley, EMU senior, who is a member of YAL, said they have set up multiple free speech walls where students can write anything, draw pictures or even vent about a professor. They remind students that this is the power of freedom of speech, which we all have.
“We are just bringing awareness to your First Amendment right: the freedom of expression, free speech, freedom of conscience,” said Basley. “I have a signup sheet for anyone who wants to join, but we have free constitutions if you’re just passing by. It’s really just to raise awareness about your right to free speech.”
Basley said campuses and police are taking away students’ rights by marking off free speech zones.
“The administration will create free speech zones and they won’t let you speak wherever you want or will ask you for their approval basically,” said Basley. “So it’s kind of rebelling against that sort of thing.”
David Blair, a representative from the Leadership Institute, was there as well supporting the event. He said the Leadership Institute works with YAL chapters all over the country and helps them out.
“A lot of times college students are busy with classes and things like that, and they could use as much support as possible,” said Blair “And it’s for a great cause.”
Blair said when you provide students with free speech walls not everything is pleasant and some things are profane. But if that’s what the students want to write or express, they’re allowed to do so by their First Amendment right.
“We are recruiting for the group and wanting to let students know they have a First Amendment right. Be sure they are informed of what that is,” Blair said. “A lot of times students might not be as well informed about what the First Amendment is and what the First Amendment basically means. That’s what we’re trying to come out and illustrate today.”
EMU sophomore Ben Ruff said he thought YAL’s idea to create free speech walls was a great way to spread awareness of free speech. He said there was a lot of information to soak in on the free speech walls.
“Free speech is a right that everyone should express and hold true to themselves to what they believe in,” said Ruff. “What they are promoting here today is awesome and allows people to express whatever they want without criticism.”
Kiana Gandol, also a sophomore at EMU, said sometimes people forget they are allowed to say whatever they want and that bringing awareness to this freedom is important, especially to students. Gandol said people think you are not allowed to offend somebody or you have to think a certain way.
“Almost anything can be offensive if you twist it in a certain way,” said Gandol. “People should just say what they think and shouldn’t be afraid because they can do that.”
Gandol said she wrote on the free speech wall, “you are not defined by your failures.”
“It’s better to focus on what you are doing right and be like, okay I messed up, and I’ll do better next time. People should know that,” said Gandol.