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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Ryley Wilcox
Ryley Wilcox
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I found my passion for journalism during my sophomore year of college, writing articles here and there for the North Wind. Since joining the staff this past semester as the news writer, I have been able...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Politically-incorrect beach ball coming to campus

The Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), NMU Chapter, is taking a unique approach to promoting freedom of speech on college campuses.

As part of its effort to engage more students in freely sharing and accepting opinions, the group plans to roll a giant beach ball around campus and students will be able to write anything they want on it. This “free speech ball” will not be the first of its kind as YAL chapters at Duke University last week and and Lock Haven University in March have conducted similar events on their campuses.

Even though not all forms of speech are favorable to hear by disadvantaged groups or campus administration, student members of YAL believe that by generating more outspokenness, regardless of sensitive language, students will gain more from their college experience, Jeremy Donohue, president of YAL said.

“There might be a safe space in school where inflammatory statements or possibly offensive remarks aren’t tolerated but that’s not how the real world is,” Donohue said. “We think it actually helps the students if they have to face offensive and inflammatory differences in opinion.”  

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The free speech ball event is expected to be held on Wednesday, April 20, 2016 and will start at or near the buildings of Jamrich and the LRC, according to Donohue.

“We think that it prepares students better to go into the world having to deal with differences in opinion as opposed to shielding them from differences in opinion,” Donohue said.

Amidst the controversy surrounding the 2016 presidential election in regards to speech policy on college campuses, organizations like YAL are encouraging fellow students to limitlessly exercise their right to free speech. After incidences like the one at the University of Illinois—Chicago where nearly 50,000 people signed a petition that didn’t allow Trump to speak on their campus, issues with free speech zones on universities have become more prevalent.   

“Having a serious notion but also bringing humor to ease the tension, I feel that’s kind of a huge thing that people are forgetting about,” Mac Phelan, vice president of YAL, said in regards to the material of free speech that is permitted on campuses.

The YAL organization will also host a screening of the movie titled “Can We Take a Joke?” in correlation with its promotion of free speech. This 2015 documentary explores the very thin line between comedy and outrage and will be held at 7:30 p.m. on April 13  in 1318 Jamrich. The movie also touches on issues of hypersensitivity and political correctness in higher education.

Donohue said the idea for the large beach ball is to collect unpopular opinions and promote the idea of voicing ideas that aren’t “politically correct.” He also said the efforts by YAL are a part of a nationwide push going across 200 different college campuses for free speech.

“This is just a reaction to the rise of politically correct safe-space culture on college campuses,” he said.

Free-speech zones, formerly known as “buffer zones,” are areas that are designated for public speakers to talk void of protesters and rebuttal. These free speech zones have become even more common than they were prior to the 2016 election.

Donohue also said there are concerns and skepticism about the kinds of speech that will be allowed to go on the ball by many staff and students who already know about the event.

“We’re hoping it’s going to go pretty smoothly but we’re anticipating some backlash,” said Donohue. “We can definitely see students coming out, being against it, but we’re mostly fearing the administration stepping in and saying, ‘this is too much.’”

The YAL organization has more than 600 chapter locations and 204,000 youth activists nationwide. The group first came to NMU in the spring of 2015 and the chapter is now made up of 12-15 members who meet regularly Wednesday nights on the first floor in the Learning Resource Center. Any student is free to stop in on one of the meetings regardless of their political affiliation, Donohue said.

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