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YAF has documents advocating for the removal of free speech class on college campus

In the past weeks The Round Table has written numerous articles about the inherent ideological problems that Young Americans for Freedom has shown in the past year. The local chapter here at Beloit has hosted three speakers whose only purpose appears to be to provoke students so they can push their narrative that liberal academics are oppressing conservative thought. We as a student body have seen and felt this behavior from the lack of time for questions at former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s talk to the possibly censored Q&A at the former Vice President Dick Cheney’s interview. The most obvious example being that when Erik Prince talked to the press after his closed session he did not mention what he talked about at all, but rather condemned Beloit College for violating his First Amendment rights. From our local perspective this behavior appears desperate and sometimes almost sad but on a national scale the image is quite scarier.

At Michigan State University, for example the Young Americans for Freedom chapter was categorized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 2007. They were the first collegiate student group ever to be classified as such. Some factors that SPLC said helped determine their decision were a few of the events and proposals that the club had. The club hosted an event called “Catch an Illegal Immigrant,” and put forth proposals to the school to “cut funding to minority student organizations” and to “establish an all-white student council to the MSU student government” according to The Michigan Daily. But that was 12 years ago and surely the club has changed. Well, the answer is a bit complicated. In 2011 Young Americans for Freedom and the Young American’s Foundation merged. When this happened the Young American’s Foundation became the national governing body while chapters were still referred to as Young Americans for Freedom. It is unclear from both MSU’s official website and the MSU YAF’s chapter’s website if the chapter was disciplined or otherwise altered after the merger. What is certain is that from 2011 to 2018 the MSU chapter had little to no activity. 

Both the former Young Americans for Freedom and current YAF have commented on the MSU chapter. The former Executive Director, Jordan Marks, was quoted in 2010 saying, “Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) ended its relationship with Mr. Bristow a number of years ago due to differing beliefs.” Mr. Bristow was the president of the chapter at the time. Contradically, in 2017 YAF’s National Chairman, Grant Strobl stated that, “Bristow’s group at Michigan State University was never a chartered chapter Young Americans for Freedom, and used our name without authorization.  The group Bristow organized claims to be a chapter but was never affiliated with the national organization. YAF had a review process that this group at Michigan State University never applied for or went through.” So the chapter was both recognized and not recognized? Marks’ statement clearly implies that the chapter did indeed once have a charter while Strobl’s claims otherwise. Perhaps Strobl misspoke as Marks’ account is from around the time MSU would have been disciplined. Either way the fact that it is unclear whether or not there were consequences does not bode well for YAF’s reputation.

Recently however, the club has become extremely active and is inviting speakers to MSU’s campus again. Next month, for example, the club’s Facebook page indicates that it is hosting Michael Knowles, a conservative podcaster who in infamous in the LGBTQ community for making several offensive remarks. Knowles had a whole episode that was dedicated to arguing that Pride parades are sinful and amoral. He also tweeted last June that “If “queer” is a homophobic slur, then so is “LGBTQ””.  More recently he has gained public infamy for calling Greta Thunberg, a well-known climate activist, a “mentally ill Swedish child.” on FOX News. The remark was so offensive and unfounded that the station had to later apologize to its viewers.

The problems don’t stop with MSU. At Baylor University the YAF chapter has recently accused an LGBTQ student group, Gamma Alpha Upsilon (GAY), of tearing down posters and being violent towards its members. When asked by GAY to talk about the supposed problem YAF gave no response. While claiming they are being harassed, the YAF chapter has invited speakers such as Matt Walsh, a commenter for the conservative website The Daily Wire and Ben Shapiro, who is the Editor and Chief of the same site. According to The Dallas Observer Walsh’s speech was titled “Why the Left Has Set Out to Redefine Life, Gender, and Marriage.” To advertise for the event the YAF chapter put up flyers that had the “LGBTQ rainbow flag with a hammer and sickle superimposed over it,” which is a clear metaphor equating all non-heterosexual individuals to communists. Shapiro, meanwhile, is famous for saying that “transgender individuals are suffering from a mental illness.”

To this day both of these chapters are still recognized by YAF’s national organization, which calls into question the values the organization as a whole possesses. This clearly extreme and provocative behavior is something that the national organization seemingly supports. Even with extensive research I cannot even say with certainty if the YAF at MSU that was categorized as a hate group was disciplined. The most I could find was that the local chapter at the time was threatened with a revocation of its charter. Whether or not that actually happened is unclear. 

This uncertainty is not surprising as there are documents that suggest that the current national organization itself holds views that even conservatives should deem unacceptable. YAF’s national organization has published a document humorously titled “Comedy and Tragedy”. In it they list specific classes at specific colleges that they wish to see discontinued or otherwise terminated. They do not outright say that but with the use of words like “indoctrination” and “intellectual abuse” it is hard to not reason they’d rather see these courses gone. In other words they want them censored. 

There appears to be some keywords that automatically get a class mentioned on this list such as “Race”, “Gender”, “Women”, “Black”, “Queer”, “Sexuality”, and basically any other word that has to do with underrepresented individuals and people of color. Besides the inherent racism, sexism, queerphobia, and outright misogyny in this 51 page document there are some interesting inclusions. “Modern Political Philosophy,” for example is just a political theory class by the course description, but apparently that is too radical for YAF to tolerate. Another entry that is self-contradictory is titled “Reagan’s America,” which is labeled as a history class. YAF owns and operates the Reagan Museum in California and their founding document is essentially just Reagan’s views on issues. Wouldn’t they be stoked to see an entire class just solely focused on their favorite president? The most shocking inclusion is titled “Free Speech”, which covers the evolution of how the First Amendment has been interpreted. For an organization that constantly claims it is being limited by “mopey censorsas the current Chair of the club stated, they seem to want to censor a lot of information and perspectives. I encourage our readers to go online and read this document for yourselves because it really paints a clear picture about what YAF actually is.

The Round Table interviewed the Beloit chapter YAF chair Andrew Collins about the document. When asked about its contents he says he disagrees with the inclusion of “Modern Political Philosophy” but that the majority of the classes listed are “frivolous courses” and “ideologically based.” He expanded on what he meant he stated, “These classes tend to skew left, most college university professors are left wing. I would hazard a guess that a lot of the theoretical underpinning of the approaches taken and methodology taken by these courses stem from left wing academia such as the Frankfurt school and basic critical theory so I definitely think there is an ideological tilt to them,” and that “some things are frivolous and some things have value.” 

Though it is true that YAF is allowed to make what Collins claims are “value judgments” to criticize academia, people are also allowed to make such judgments about YAF. The fact that the courses they believe have no value are largely classes that are not about straight white men says a lot about the organization. 

But Mr. Collins suggests that if these courses do have merit, it is in graduate school. When it was brought up that most of these classes are higher level, so second semester sophomore to senior year level courses, he said, “Well I would disagree that that’s really enough time to gather a complete appreciation of the traditional streams of thought in the west and the east. I think it takes probably your entire four years. That’s what a four year education is. It’s to get one acquainted with the basic tenets of western and now eastern civilizations and others as well. So I don’t think second semester sophomores are using their time wisely if they take that course as opposed to a more traditional one.” Who is YAF to determine how long it should take to grasp the basic understandings and methodologies of a field? The point of introductory classes is to introduce you to the subject and set the basic groundwork for more complex ideas. If we all followed Mr. Collins’ understanding of how undergraduate education should be implemented, students would never do the research they currently do, or debate complexly with one another. Most would hope that after four, or even two, years at college students would be able to talk complexly about the subject they are studying.


Sources: Michigan Daily, Dallas Observer, YAF, NY Daily News

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