In response to a semester of controversy and backlash against conservative students on campus, the College of Lake County Administration defended Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) by creating “Free Speech” training for faculty. When the story broke, it was immediately picked up by National YAF’s press team and retweeted by conservative icons Ben Shapiro and Michael Knowles.

The training consisted of six sessions, each attended by over two hundred faculty, with multiple lawyers leading the gatherings. The first order of business was discussing if YAF was a hate group, and the lawyers confirmed to the staff that YAF has a right to exist. In their slideshow, the lawyers had stated that the faculty should “avoid treating protected speech as actionable misconduct,” which the group claimed members of the college had been doing. The lawyers affirmed that campus groups could host public events on topics, no matter how controversial. In an email sent to all students, the College of Lake County stated, “the College has a responsibility to recognize and uphold freedom of speech and expression that is protected by the First Amendment. Allowing the opportunity for robust debates or panel discussions does not mean that the College endorses or agrees with a particular side or opinion. Rather, it demonstrates the College’s respect for differing perspectives, ideas, and thoughts that are within the purview of the First Amendment.”

“We see this as a huge accomplishment,” stated YAF Chapter Chairman Rob Corn, “Now we know that our ideas will not be silenced on campus and that our efforts to promote open dialogue about critical issues are succeeding. Conservative students at CLC deserve support, and the school administration is starting to recognize that.”

Young Americans for Freedom’s mission is to promote “the principles of limited government, individual freedom, free enterprise, a strong national defense, and traditional values” to youth all over the country. Over the past semester, the group hosted several public debates and panels discussing current issues, some attended by over 150 people. They also hold bi-weekly meetings, participate in service projects and create campus-wide initiatives such as the

9/11 project, where they lead the school in planting over 3,000 American Flags in remembrance of the September 11th terrorist acts.

Intolerance against YAF has come from students, including the Student Government President who stated, on camera, that he chose to participate in a debate put on by YAF to “Stand up against racist rhetoric. . . and to fight back against organizations like Young Americans for Freedom and the Republican Party.” Another example occurred during a debate when a student sat near the conservative speaker and loudly smacked a hammer against a sheet of metal whenever the speaker talked. The YAF group put up a poster board displaying conservative slogans in November, and a student was witnessed ripping it down.

While multiple threats and libel have come from students, there was also a backlash from CLC faculty. When conducting a public panel highlighting black conservative students, a staff member was seen publicly “booing” the conservative students when they spoke, and later created a roller board affiliating YAF as a “white nationalist” and “hate group.” Countless complaints were given to the student activities department that YAF is hateful and should not be allowed on campus. Ironically, Young Americans for Freedom at CLC is one of the most diverse clubs on campus, with members of many racial, political, cultural, and religious backgrounds.

“We would like to specifically thank the President, Dr. Lori Suddick, and the Vice-President of the school for their public defense of our club through this mandate. We would also like to thank the student activities department for their patience with the frequent intolerance that they deal with on behalf of our organization.” – Young Americans for Freedom CLC