In 2015, support for speech limitations continued its upward trend, and organizations attempting to change that trend were failing miserably. Amazingly, sending lists of demands to colleges across the nation and constant lawsuits to invoke fear in these institutions—methods used by some of these organizations—did not lead to working relationships that could have helped fix these problems quickly. Whether these organizations were just willfully ignorant, blinded by a money or power grab, or just did not care is irrelevant. What is relevant, however, is that they were failing in the fight to protect speech. We decided that, because we must live with the problems as students—and because these organizations could not systemically fix these issues even with head starts in the decades—it was time to act.
Our organization focuses on building a gathering on social media and building a network of locations vital to rapid response to devastating speech limitations. In our first year, we successfully impacted speech policies, and successfully lobbied college administrations. We do not need a budget in the millions to make positive and long lasting change. All we needed was a message worth sharing—many listened and many more continue to listen.
We have grown to being active in seventeen states, Washington D.C., and Canada. Most importantly, though, is that we are a student-run organization. We live with the consequences of speech limitations. Our lives are directly affected by our successes and failures, and we are not talking about acquiring donations. There is no clocking out of this work when you live on a college campus. With this, we hope that there is an inherent level of trust surrounding our intentions. We do not beg for donations, or run to the press when we have even the smallest possible victory. Our wish is to build a grassroots effort of students and non-students, alike, who understand the problems with restricting speech and who want to make change themselves.
Everyone should understand that freedom of speech is key to a complete education. Often at college, students must grapple with a wide range of concepts, some of which they will dislike and be uncomfortable with; however, this is only how intellectual and moral growth can occur. Without it, universities will always fail students—and students will fail themselves. Universities yet are not just about academic growth. They often serve as a bridge between childhood and adulthood, and we fail our students if they cannot act as if they were adults: inexperienced to being political actors, university students will not only poorly respect the rights of others but will also not understand the special rights afforded to us by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We cannot let this happen.
We must be clear that freedom does not wear a color. It must be upheld by everyone, from progressives to conservatives; from Blue Dogs to RINOs; and from the Left and the Right. We do what we do because we are nonpartisan. We do what we do because we believe that freedom cannot be imposed by outsiders: by lawyers looking for quick money, angry mobs, or university administrations. Rather, a dedication to respecting the fundamental rights of students must come from within that university’s student body. This is why we work with students across the nation and in Canada to promote a culture of free speech.
There was clearly a market gap for a nonpartisan organization that works to protect speech on college campuses and can do so without money grabs, power grabs or patting themselves on the back constantly. After the growth and success we’ve had, we believe we can safely say that our organization, and the community of supporters that follow, have filled that void.