Promoting liberty on our college campuses across our nation is important. In fact, it is one of the most important activities one can do if he or she wishes to advance the principles of limited government to our next generation of students. However, neither of the two largest student devoted college organizations, the College Republicans nor the College Democrats can be relied upon for this task. Sure, both of these groups may do so from time to time and on certain issues, but the simple truth is that the overall focus of these groups is to advance political parties and their candidates, but not principles.
Image from YAL’s Facebook page
With the end of the 2008 Ron Paul campaign, several groups came into being that sought to advance liberty first and foremost. One such group, Young Americans for Liberty, focused primarily on colleges and college-age individuals. On my own I have been actively assisting and encouraging liberty-minded college students and political dialogue for the last five or so years. Therefore, as you might imagine, I eagerly looked forward to the opportunity to join forces with a group like YAL. Unfortunately, the opportunity never seemed to present itself. At our local university of James Madison groups blossomed and quickly disappeared. Over the last several years two separate YAL groups sprung up and died.
But, last year, that changed. I heard that the Virginia State Director of YAL had moved on to other things and they now had an opening, which I jumped to fill. In November of 2015, Students for Liberty (another pro-liberty pro-student group) held a conference at the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. While there, I met with the regional coordinator for YAL and briefly discussed the opening for a state director and the conversation seemed promising. When I returned to my computer, I sent her a copy of my resume.
The Young Americans for Liberty stater kit
Several weeks later, I was called for an interview that went really well. As a test and prelude to employment, I was asked if I would be willing to try and set up YAL chapter at one of our local colleges. Although I don’t like the idea of working for free (after all, why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?) the thought of finally working for YAL convinced me to allay my misgivings and give it a shot. They asked me to come up with a plan to promote student activism and, based upon my work and experience with other political organizations I did. They then sent me a box of materials for tabling and I traveled to the nearby Bridgewater College to see what I could set up. I ran into a snag with the college administration and, with winter finals and the break only a week or two away, it became readily apparent that there was not time to set something up. I then visited Eastern Mennonite University, but ran into similar time constraints.
Therefore, I sent the regional coordinator this message on December 17th:
Well, as you predicted, trying things so close to break has put a damper on the plans. However, I have spoken with one student and although we don’t have a date set yet, we are planning to meet some time this break. And then when break is over we will see what happens. Besides that, I’m looking forward to Star Wars, but who isn’t?
If you could put a good word for me to the people at YAL I would appreciate [it].
Thanks and have a great day!
I hoped to try and set something up at a local college for early in the next semester as I waited for the YAL representative to get back in touch with me. Weeks passed. Then, on January 7th, I finally heard back. In the reply, I received some shocking and dismaying news.
Here’s the most important paragraph from their email:
“…I don’t doubt your abilities and I really would like to see you be a part of the movement, but the biggest hick-up that I’ve come across is your previous involvement with YAL. With the way our field program is structured all of our state chairs have been involved with YAL in the past, in one leadership role or another. This is to verify that they know what a successful YAL chapter looks like and what it takes to make one. With you, you have never been a part of a chapter with no fault of your own, but they will not let me bring you on because of that and this will not change in the future.”
Note what they are saying. I wasn’t being rejected either due to a lack of expertise or talent. Apparently, because I wasn’t a part of Young Americans for Liberty during my time as an undergraduate (because YAL didn’t exist before the 2008 Ron Paul campaign) I couldn’t be considered for employment. However, why didn’t they announce this policy from the onset of our conversation? Were they hoping to get as much free labor from me as possible before casually pointing out their policies preventing them from hiring me? It felt like a turn of the century business that had picked up an Irish laborer at no cost and when he finally asked to be hired for a wage, the business revealed a previously hidden “No Irish Need Apply” sign. As I thought more about it, I began to wonder how many other people have been taken advantage of by this policy.
As I wrote in reply, “I’m disappointed to hear about this policy and it makes little sense. As you mention, I couldn’t have been part of YAL as an undergrad as it didn’t exist then. By the same token, neither could Jeff Frazee (the founder of YAL), Ed King, or many others. Everyone has to start somewhere. And, it isn’t like I haven’t I started student groups once out of college, as mentioned in my work for Students for Life, but I guess that means nothing to YAL. To me this is about as fair as excluding a person based upon skin color, country of origin, or gender, as no one has control over any of those things either. And what of the people who discover liberty after they get their degree? Does YAL treat them as second class citizens too?”
I went on to add, “Unfortunately, based upon this position of your group, I guess I won’t be able to recommend that any liberty-minded students become a part of YAL as long as this policy remains in place. The idea of working with YAL has been a goal of mine since the end of the 2008 Ron Paul campaign, but I guess it is best to finally forget about it. I suppose it is finally time for that dream to die. Nevertheless, these words are a poor representation of the depth of my disappointment. It is regrettable that the movement has to be fractured, but I am still hopeful to find work for a group which actually values my experience and dedication without this kind of inane policy.”
Since this exchange at the beginning of the year, I have heard nothing further from YAL. Several months afterward, a local student came to me with the idea of restarting the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at James Madison University. Unfortunately, given their hiring practices, I advised against him allying with YAL. For better or worse, YAL recently underwent a leadership change, but I do not know if their policies have remained the same.
This disappointing episode with Young Americans for Liberty has not dampened my enthusiasm for promoting our values to our next generation of leaders and, as such, during the 2016 spring semester you could find me at JMU almost every week. If you are interested in either working for Young Americans for Liberty or considering donating to the group I believe you ought to know this detail about them upfront and not after you have offered them your time or money. It is my hope that YAL will jettison this fatal flaw or, if that doesn’t happen, I hope another organization will rise up to become the premier liberty-promoting group on campuses nationwide. That’s something I would be excited to be part of.