Northern Illinois University made headlines earlier this month when its football team became the only non-BCS college to receive an invitation to compete with the big time conferences in this year’s bowl games. Now, the kids at NIU have announced a different accomplishment. The group Young Americans for Liberty set a record for the largest gathering of pro-liberty students when they met two weeks ago at NIU in Dekalb, Illinois.
YAL leadership conference at NIU
“The Young Americans for Liberty chapter at Northern Illinois University has operated under an administration that is set on stifling speech rights and ensuring no one messes with the status quo,” said YAL’s Ryan Michie in a statement after the event, “That is why my chapter set an ambitious plan to bring more attendees for a Youth Leadership School than anyone else in the Midwest ever. And we did it.”
According to the NIU chapter of the national pro-liberty student organization, the January 12-13 leadership conference at Northern Illinois University drew 88 YAL members and grassroots organizers. Showing fellow college-aged liberty activists how it’s done, the NIU chapter of Young Americans for Liberty reached out to other colleges throughout the area. Many colleges and universities in the US, but not all, have at least a one-member chapter of the 30-plus year organization Young Americans for Liberty. Some chapters are much larger.
“Our chapter has a core group of eight members with the ambition to stop the infringement on student’s rights by an administration that has gone unchallenged for decades,” Michie explained, “We immediately advertised to our fellow YAL groups in the state. We thought maybe a few would come. Instead, nine pro-liberty student groups and six grassroots organizations came out. We were happy to have several local elected officials reserve spots as well. We knew this was really going to be a big event.”
Roll with the changes
Giving a glimpse of just how hectic it can be trying to organize a public grassroots political event, the NIU YAL chapter describes how they kept losing their meeting rooms. It wasn’t because of the typical dilemma – ‘the man’ pulling permits and rescinding invitations at the behest of outspoken anti-liberty activists. Instead, it was for a good reason – the registered attendance kept surpassing each room’s maximum capacity. That’s a problem most grassroots organizers would love to have.
Thinking on their feet and acting quickly, YAL’s NIU students frantically changed venues, first to accommodate 23 registered guests, then 50, then 70, then 90. “My chapter members pretty much had the university events coordinator’s phone number on speed dial the week leading up to the event to ensure venue changes went smoothly,” conference organizer Ryan Michie described.
Game plan for a takeover
“Game plan for a takeover” – that’s how YAL’s event organizers described much of the content of their break-out sessions during the Youth Leadership School (YLS). Colleges and universities across the country are notorious for being extremely left wing when it comes to politics and policy. That agenda permeates not only much of the easily influenced student bodies, but also many school administrations and faculties as well. Students who don’t self-identify as liberal or progressive – like independents, libertarians, conservatives and others – often feel discriminated against by colleges and their politically biased rules and bylaws.
As described by the conference organizers, much of the recent two-day meeting was dedicated to showing YAL chapters from other schools how they too can challenge unfair and discriminatory policies on campus and bring a message of liberty to their student bodies. Also covered were topics like promoting and marketing YAL membership to fellow students and running pro-liberty students for jobs and elected offices at each school.
“In our YAL breakout session, we set membership goals for each chapter across the Midwest,” YAL’s Michie explained. He also described some of the materials and resources fellow YAL students received “to utilize on their campus to combat liberal bias.” Ryan Michie went on to proudly announce, “As a result of these talks, we are scheduling an additional two YLS sessions in Illinois and a ‘Campus Election Boot-camp’ to coach our chapters through getting our members elected to important campus positions.”
Participating in the NIU conference were students, YAL chapters and pro-liberty groups from Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. Schools represented included Harper College, Iowa University, the University of Minnesota, Saint Cloud State, Western Illinois University, Drake University and the host school Northern Illinois University. With participation like that, and leading by example, it shouldn’t be a surprise if students soon see equally popular and successful pro-liberty events at those schools as well.
For more information on organizing a Young Americans for Liberty school chapter, visit the group’s website at YALiberty.org.
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