By Marina Jaimes
On Oct. 4, students from Young Americans for Liberty hosted a former police chief from Missouri, Larry Kirk. His presentation, “Stop the Drug War: How a failed drug policy has destroyed lives, communities, and culture of policing,” offered a commonsense, logical approach to the War on Drugs. Key points during the lecture explained the effect that the drug war has created between communities and police, how a racist system justifies the war, the amount of taxpayer money wasted on victimless crimes, and solutions on reforming the criminal-justice system.
While sitting in on Kirk’s lecture, I discovered a whole new set of truths that had not been exposed to me before. For 60 minutes, I was able to sit and listen to facts backed by real statistics and was offered solutions that could shape the future of the criminal-justice system. Kirk’s presentation leaned neither left or right and promoted reform in one of the most controversial areas in American politics. Regardless of ideology, he proved that more time and effort should be placed on this reform in order to move toward a better-functioning society.
Needless to say, this event sparked my interest in the group hosting Kirk, which was the UI Young Americans for Liberty. I was able to sit with its executive board and ask a few questions about what their group hopes to achieve on campus. The executive board, composed of five members, believes that its mission at the UI is to attract liberty-minded individuals who would like to focus on ending the drug war and abolishing free-speech zones. As a group, the members feel that their primary focus will be reforming free-speech regulations at the UI by adopting the “Chicago Principles.”
The “Chicago Principles,” created at the University of Chicago in 2012, “ensure all members of the university community have the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, learn, and make clear it is not the proper role of the university to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”
Students at schools that have adopted these principles have absolute freedom to say what they wish to say as long as it does not threaten the safety of others without facing punishment from their university. Personally, I believe that a place of higher education should prioritize these principles if all students wish to grow in their beliefs and critical-thinking skills. We cannot claim to be a place in which ideas are free to express while censoring or silencing opinions of those in the minority.
What I saw during Kirk’s lecture and in the executive-board meeting was a breath of fresh air. Young Americans for Liberty does not spread a message that is divisive or polarized, but instead spends time focusing on messages that can unite communities. In a time in which the political atmosphere is extremely hostile, it is important to remind ourselves that groups such as this exist and are easy to find on almost any college campus.
You can find Young Americans for Liberty on campus petitioning for free speech or even with engaging students in events such as signing free-speech balls during the school day. If joining the liberty movement is something you believe would be beneficial for the UI, Young Americans for Liberty at UI meets biweekly in 31 Schaeffer at 6:30 p.m.