YAF Member Speaks about Free Speech in a Liberal Campus

By: Laura Saini


Tristan Justice is so passionate about Young America’s Foundation (YAF) that he started his own chapter in high school. YAF aims to increase conservative ideals through internships, speakers, conferences, and seminars. One of his favorite memories with YAF is flying Bay Buchanan, former treasurer under President Ronald Reagan, to his high school in Columbus, Ohio. Buchanan spoke to all the government classes.

“A lot of people left thinking they were conservative,” Justice said. “It really did impact my classmate’s views on public policy. “

Justice, 19, says he is one of the few conservatives at George Washington University, a highly liberal campus. He is a currently an e-board member of YAF. His goal is to spread conservatism in his campus.

“It’s a challenge, but you have to embrace that,” Justice said.  “Our college campuses, here and around the country are becoming these isolated bubbles of radical liberalism. It’s like you’re always being challenged.”

College campuses across the United States are becoming increasingly liberal. An example of this is the popularization of the phrases “trigger warning” and “safe places.” Terms like “liberal bubble” are coined for college campuses, mainstream news media and large cities in the U.S.

A study conducted by Econ Journal Watch, a group that watches economic journals for inappropriate assumptions, weak chains of argument and omissions of truths, shows that liberal professors outweigh conservative professors about 12:1. This was measured out of 7,243 professors. Democrats outnumbered Republicans 3,623 to 314.

This makes it difficult for conservative opinions to be heard on college campuses. Former President Obama addressed this trend in his farewell address.

“For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions,” Obama said to a crowd in Chicago.

For YAF, it is more important than ever to ensure that conservative voices are heard- even if that means speaking to a crowd that disagrees with you.

“I embrace it,” Justice said.  “It keeps me on my feet. It keeps me motivated. And it keeps my mind open to new ideas.”

However, Justice knows that not everyone feels that way. A lot of his friends are intimidated to speak up in class.

“When you say something really conservative, all of sudden you’re going to have half the class raising their hands going right after you,” Justice said. “Calling you any name on the book- racists, sexists, any of the ‘ists.’”

One of the way YAF tries to spread its ideas is through demonstrations on campus. A few weeks ago, YAF put up a pro-life demonstration on the quad called Cemetery of the Innocents.  According to Justice, they placed hundreds of crosses on the lawn to symbolize the deaths of all the unborn babies. He said pro-choice students physically attacked the demonstration throughout the day. He also said people kicked down and defaced crosses, and they tore up all the signs.

An article by campusreform.org, a publication about college news, confirms the vandalism that took place at the protest.

“It was just amazing how upset people were that we were advocating a different views than theirs,” Justice said. “I think it just goes to show how people view free speech on campus. People will say they support free speech until it goes against their ideas.”

Still, a number of people did stop and ask what the demonstration was about. For Justice, abortion is one of the top issues he is passionate about in YAF. He says he voted for President Trump because he wanted the next Supreme Court Justice to be conservative. He wants Roe v. Wade to be overturned soon.

“I think it [abortion] is a moral plague on our society,” Justice said. “I know how that rhetoric sounds, but that’s how I feel about this issue.”

However, Justice disagrees with Trump’s attack on the media.

“I think its been totally unproductive,” he said. “I think its intimidating journalists. Not all because there are some incredible journalists who are not afraid to fight it. But I don’t think its productive for our democracy.”

Overall, Justice likes when liberals on campus talks to him. Even if they disagree, getting them to understand the other side of issues is important to him.

“I would hope for liberals to come up to us and engage with us and have a discussion about policy,” Justice said. “Have a substantive discussion about the issue.”


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