Last year, the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter at Ole Miss took part in Young America’s Foundation’s Freedom Week, an event held on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, during which students educate their peers about the reality and danger of the progressive social movement.
As part of Freedom Week, the Ole Miss YAF chapter constructed a mock “Berlin Wall” made of drywall at the famous “Grove” on campus. The students spray painted the wall with “microaggressions,” “safe spaces,” and other terms leftists use in their attempts to squelch free speech–and then tore down the mock Berlin Wall, a symbol of communism and tyranny.
During the Berlin Wall activity, members of Ole Miss YAF were approached by university administrators and questioned about their activities. The administrators expressed their disapproval of the event, took notes about it, and then left.
A month after the Berlin Wall activity, the Ole Miss YAF chapter received a letter from the university’s Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct. The letter notified the YAF members of a report alleging that the organization had held an “unregistered event”.
Ole Miss has a policy that requires certain large, organized speaking events to be registered and approved by the university in advance. Ole Miss YAF’s Berlin Wall event did not meet any of the criteria to require registration, but out of an abundance of caution, the student group did submit a registration form four business days before the event.
Despite not receiving a response after their registration request, the Ole Miss YAF chapter went forward with their Berlin Wall activity. A month later, and after being questioned by campus administrators, they received the letter.
The YAF members were then informed that they would be subjected to a judicial review process to determine whether they had violated any university policies and whether any punishments should be imposed. Or, they could agree to an administrative punishment which would prevent them from registering any events for 30 days.
The Mississippi Justice Institute (MJI), a nonprofit constitutional litigation center retained by the chapter as representation, sent a letter to the university highlighting concerns over constitutionality.
MJI’s letter also warned that “Ole Miss YAF considers the free speech rights of its members to be of the utmost importance to the members themselves, to the mission of Ole Miss YAF, and to society at large, and is therefore prepared to take further action to protect the rights of its members.”
Upon receiving this correspondence, Ole Miss tried to backtrack, claiming the real problem was the mallet used to “tear down” the mock Berlin Wall, even though the charge leveled against the students was for holding an “unregistered event.”
The university officials did not even attempt to justify the university’s decision to charge YAF with holding an “unregistered event.”
After discussions with YAF’s MJI representation, Ole Miss terminated the unfounded administrative proceedings against the student group. A win for free speech and common sense!
Across the country, schools are attempting to curb free speech rights, particularly of those with the wrong speech. Luckily, YAF students are resilient and the YAF team will continue to fight bias in education and fight for the rights of YAF students.