Young Americans for Liberty, a Libertarian activist group, have recruited ETSU’s Greyson Jennings, Political Science and Psychology double major, to be president of the organization’s new ETSU chapter.
“Right now we are trying to get members. We have to have five members and we have three,” Jennings said in an interview.
According to their website, YAL is a non-profit political activist organization founded in 2008. YAL says they are one of the fastest-growing political organizations and now have over 900 chapters with over 300,000 “youth activist.”
“Basically, what we are about is being a campus activism organization that kind of highlights the basic rights of all Americans,” said Jennings. He later stated, “It’s more so a Libertarian club, but less so about one side or the other. They kind of come together to embrace those God-given rights.”
YAL was formed after Ron Paul’s failed run at the Republican nomination for president in 2008. Their website and Facebook page boast of growth. The mission statement is about education, training and mobilization of youth to recapture the government of tomorrow.
“We want to ensure that ETSU has a Free Speech Policy in place,” Jennings said. “We want to make sure there are zones on campus for freedom of expression; [students] say what they want to say.”
The activist group will face a new Tennessee law that took effect Jan. 1 and is aimed at protecting free speech on public universities. Tennessee became the first state to recognize faculty’s academic freedom with the law.
Provisions of the bill include: universities cannot disinvite campus speakers invited by students or faculty; universities may not charge additional security fees because of speech content; universities cannot designate free speech zones; and universities require the school to regularly inform students and faculty of their speech rights.
The law requires higher education institutions to adopt “freedom of expression” policies similar to that of the University of Chicago which says, “free-speech zones” confine and restrict protest and forms of expression to restricted areas, and can promote student-on-student harassment described as so “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it limits access to education.
Once the ETSU YAL chapter recruits their final two members, Jennings is planning a free speech event.
“We plan on getting this big beach ball and going in front of the library,” said Jennings. “As students walk by they can get a Sharpie and put whatever they want on it.”
The organization may be in luck. Borchuck Plaza and the Amphitheater are public forums available for free speech events with registration. Jennings is finalizing the chapter constitution and working on recruiting his final two members.
“I hope they take us as a group of people that want to be more involved; less so as on party or the other, but coming together for the common good of all,” Jennings said.
The organization is not without controversy. They first came under fire in 2010 because of fighting. Another incident occurred in 2011 while protesting an outdoor smoking ban proposed at the University of North Texas. The local YAL chapter passed out free cigarettes and collected signatures on a petition.
The most recent controversy came in December 2017 when members of a YAL chapter were reprimanded for showing support of Milo Yiannopoulos. The organization had recently released a memo directing members to distance themselves from the controversial speaker.