In 2008, the national group Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) was formed across college campuses in the United States. In February 2016, the University of Maine started its own chapter.
“YAL is the largest, most active, and fastest-growing pro-liberty organization on America’s college campuses,” president and third-year bio-engineering student David Scidmore said of the group. “This is not a new beginning, but a continuation of a youth movement already brewing in this country, and we are dedicated to its success.”
Scidmore discussed the club’s strong belief in liberty — defined as “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.” This semester, YAL is focusing specifically on freedom of speech. Scidmore explained that liberty pertains to free speech in that students ideally should be allowed to express themselves in any way they choose without repercussions from authority on campus.
“The mission of YAL is to identify, educate, train and mobilize youth activists committed to winning on principle. Our goal is to cast the leaders of tomorrow and reclaim the policies, candidates and direction of our government,” Scidmore said. He also stated that the club is currently planning a follow-up event from their “free speech ball” that occurred on Sept. 26.
The “free speech ball” was an event in which YAL had a two-foot in diameter beach ball that they encouraged students and faculty to write whatever they wished on. The purpose of the ball was to make the public aware that on a publicly funded university campus, free speech should not be censored by administration because it is a violation of first amendment rights to free speech.
Scidmore and YAL hope that throughout the semester, the club can organize and facilitate free speech events across campus in order to give students and faculty an opportunity to express themselves without backlash from the administration or community. YAL encourages its members to share their opinions and perspectives within their group as well as with the public.
“Just because someone has a different opinion than you doesn’t make them bigoted,” Scidmore stated.
Scidmore explained his view that college is meant to expose students to new people, ideas and perspectives. As president, he plans to facilitate and organize peaceful debates about typically controversial topics with no fear of being discriminated against or silenced.
“I wish to expose people to different ideas that may broaden their horizons, and when universities limit free speech, it limits that and in turn limits the learning opportunities of their students.”
Specific events coming up for the club include bi-weekly meetings every other Wednesday night at 5 p.m. The public is encouraged to email Scidmore at David.Scidmore@maine.edu for more information.