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The Young Americans for Liberty club is hoping to establish an increased presence of free speech at Marquette after being ranked as one of the worst colleges for free speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
Chris Czarnecki, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences and president of the Young Americans for Liberty on campus, said the group hopes to grow its presence on campus this semester while bringing attention to the issue of free speech.
For the second year in a row, Marquette was put on the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech” list published on Huffington Post. Other schools on the list include Northwestern University and the University of California, San Diego.
“If all goes according to plan, Marquette will not be on the Huffington Post’s ’10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech’ list next year, or ever again,” Czarnecki said.
FIRE said it included Marquette on the list because of its response to political science professor John McAdams’ role in a controversy that provoked the Westboro Baptist Church to picket campus. McAdams is suspended and waiting to see if he’ll be fired for his blog post about a conversation about gay marriage between a teaching assistant and student.
Kevin Selwa, a senior in the College of Communication and vice president of The Young Americans for Liberty, said the McAdams controversy brings a feeling of paranoia for teachers when speaking with students.
“What McAdams did was his right and I think he should be allowed to come back,” Selwa said.
She said people don’t realize issues of free speech until those issues impact them directly.
“These (are) weird coincidences as a private university limiting the free speech of everyone under it, whether it comes from us trying to establish ourselves on campus, McAdams or whether it’s students expressing themselves however they want,” Selwa said.
The group was recently recognized by Marquette as a legitimate student organization, but only after having to overcome many hurdles to establish themselves on campus.
“We went through the library and were told we could not hold meetings here,” Selwa said. “They asked us what organization we were with and after questioning us, we were told that we need paperwork just to have a meeting in one of the conference rooms.”
The club’s Marquette chapter participated in the Wisconsin Young Americans for Liberty State Convention at UW-Milwaukee Feb. 20. They learned how to recruit new students and how to resolve problems on campus if they were to arise.
“We are still small, but we would like to expand into something bigger,” Selwa said. “Our main goal is to get more people involved and have voices heard.”
Marquette’s chapter plans on expanding their presence on campus by sponsoring activities for students. The club is in the process of organizing a Freedom Ball event where students can write instances where they felt the university restricted their rights to free speech on an inflatable ball.
“We plan on organizing a number of activism events that will bring to light the issue of free speech,” Czarnecki said. “I think that these will be events that a majority of the student body will be able to support and enjoy.”