Students must understand their beliefs and their rights to make a difference

Often, we talk to students who feel like their university officials are working against them.

To some, this seems like an insurmountable obstacle. If their university officials are trying to silence their ideas and beliefs, to whom can they turn to defend their constitutional rights on campus?

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has the privilege of defending a number of students who have faced situations just like this, but they are working to advance their conservative, pro-life, and religious beliefs on their university campuses nonetheless.

For example, when the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) booked Ben Shapiro to come speak on campus, university officials tried everything to stop the event. They first tried to charge a $600 security fee; then, the school cancelled the speech altogether because they did not like Ben’s viewpoint. When the student group decided to move forward with the event anyway, a mob–including CSULA faculty–blocked their entrance.

But it’s the students that are educated and passionate about their beliefs that can really make an impact on their campus. It’s those students that have the courage to stand up for their beliefs when they are challenged by their universities.

And that’s exactly what the YAF students did at CSULA. They reached out to ADF, and we sued CSULA on their behalf. In response, the university agreed that it will not discriminate on the basis of viewpoint. This resulted in YAF later hosting an incredibly successful campus lecture featuring Senator Rick Santorum, who spoke to a completely packed auditorium of students.

It is important for students to be able to explain and defend their beliefs, especially as the climate on campus becomes increasingly hostile to conservative ideas. That’s apparent in the way that conservative speakers have been attacked and mobbed on campuses across the country. University officials have done little or nothing to stop these attacks on free speech.

Events such as YAF’s upcoming National Conservative Student Conference teach students how to communicate conservative ideas effectively and how to grow their conservative groups on campus. Held at the end of July, the conference will “educate and inspire college students with the principles of individual freedom, a free-market economy, a strong national defense, and traditional values.”

And even as students set out to advocate for conservative principles on campus, it’s likely that they will also face challenges to their constitutional rights. These come in many different forms. Perhaps they will be denied student activity fee funding, or maybe university officials will ban them from passing out literature on campus.

In those situations, it’s important for those students to understand what they stand for and how to articulate their views, which the National Conservative Student Conference can help with. It’s also important for students to know their rights, which is where ADF comes in. When university officials are limiting student rights, we can evaluate your situation and possibly provide legal help.

A great first step to changing culture on campus, though, is to know and communicate conservative ideas well. And for that, we look forward to speaking with the students at the National Conservative Student Conference later this month.