No Challenge, No Change: How SFL Alumni Got a Free Speech Zone Abolished
Eastern Washington University (EWU) has a history of championing the first amendment. In fact, when a former president of the university banned a speaker from campus, students across the aisle joined together to protest, and forced him to resign. This respect for the First Amendment was instrumental in Taylor Anderson’s decision to enrol there. So, it came as a huge blow when FIRE informed her that her alma mater had implemented free speech zones in October 2017, only a few months after she graduated.
And EWU’s anti-speech zones were unparalleled in their excessiveness. The policy specifically said, “Your First Amendment rights are restricted.”
“The policy emphasized the fact that student’s First Amendment rights are restricted to two very small areas on campus. One was near construction, so it was very loud and the other was in front of a really small, old church building the size of my living room -- around 500sq feet,” Taylor recalls.
Although she had already left school, Taylor knew that she had to leverage the Students For Liberty network to challenge this policy. So, she went back to EWU and spoke with the students who had taken over the chapter. As a passionate advocate for free speech and veteran of Students For Liberty’s Speak Freely Advocacy Program, Taylor Anderson was well-positioned to help lead the protests.
She had become involved with SFL in December of 2016, after meeting a campus coordinator at a conference. Taylor was initially drawn to Students For Liberty’s culture of intellectualism because it helped her exchange ideas with peers in a challenging and fun environment that she didn’t have at her university. After becoming a campus coordinator, Taylor got involved with the Speak Freely Program, which she says was instrumental to giving her the skills to be able to lead this protest.
“I can attest that had I not been a part of the Speak Freely Advocacy Program a few months prior, I would not have been as effective in organizing the protest. Through the Advocates Program, I followed the Civil Discourse learning track. It shaped how I approached the protest because I was careful not to alienate people, to argue for free speech effectively and leave a legacy behind.”
The students protested the school’s policies in November 2017, and also had a meeting with the Dean on the policies that should be implemented to ensure the constitutional right to free speech is protected. Initially, the school agreed to not enforce the policy leading up to their policy review in May 2018. The Free Speech Zones were officially abolished in June 2018 and the policies they recommended will be implemented!
Although Taylor was disappointed that her school would implement free speech zones, she
admired their willingness to listen to reason when they were challenged, “The administration listened and I think that shows how powerful our voices can be. If we hadn’t challenged them,they’d have assumed that we agree.”
On SFL, Taylor had this to say, “SFL did for me what the university could not: they taught me principles philosophy and gave me job experience. The liberty movement gives me so much fulfillment, and I feel like my generation is a huge turning point. SFL gives me a platform to make my voice heard and usher in change.”
Now Taylor is on staff at Students For Liberty, working to give back to the organization that shaped her professional path in such a profound way.