By: Maverick Lynes, Staff Writer

Nov. 28, 2017, USM’s Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) group had a meeting on campus. Attended by six group members, they discussed the new direction they are looking to take, guided by new personnel. Ben Bussiere, YAFs former leader and USM alumni has decided to step aside from the organization for a while and give the group more freedom to move in the new direction they are headed.

Despite YAF being labelled as defunct, they still took the time to meet as a group this past Tuesday. Defunct groups are not recognized by the university, which makes them unable to advertise their group on campus and reserve rooms in any building. However, they can still meet simply as individuals coming together to discuss their interests and ideals.

Paige Pandora, the group’s treasurer and the person leading this meeting, said the group is, “Looking for anyone and welcomes everyone.” Even students who do not share the same values or identify asanti-conservative are welcome. Pandora wants YAF to be more accessible, unlike the group’s previous president who did not share the same view.

One of the group’s goal is to increase their social media presence, which remains difficult as the group is technically defunct and unable to promote their organization on campus.

Tuesday’s meeting also addressed questions surrounding the new free speech policy that has been applied to groups on campus. The new policy’s statement of purpose, as explained by the school, is to ensure safety while protecting the First Amendment rights of those who wish to participate in events hosted at USMas well as to “create procedures for engagement of outside speakers to ensure that institutional endorsement is not improperly attributed, and that facilities are used in a manner consistent with otherwise applicable institutional policy and campus safety.

YAF believes that this new policy stems from the speaker their group brought to campus last year, who was viewed by some students and community members as controversial. The event required a higher amount of security than the average speaker, and because of that the school tried to charge YAF with that security fee. However,  YAF was not required to pay the cost because the university could not charge one specific group with the entire fee.

Alex Shaffer, a veteran group member commented on the potential of the group receiving the fee saying, its not that security fees are unconstitutional if they are equally applied to every single group.

After this occurrence, the question remained; what classifies a speaker as a security threat?

The new free speech policy gives the school the ability to reject a student group’s request to bring a speaker to campus if they so choose. YAF is worried that this rule will potentially exclude speakers they wish to bring on campus from participating.

Even though YAF is concerned about biases againsttheir group, they also acknowledge the problem this will pose for many other student groups on campus besides their own.

While the club may not be officially recognized by the school just yet, Pandora still has aspirations for this club and the new direction she sees it moving in.

Pandora said, YAF in a new founded group that wants to educate fellow students with conservative views as well as have open discussions with other groups of students.

Students from last year may not have a positive view on YAF; however, they are determined to change the preconceived notion that students may have into something positive. YAF is looking to distance themselves from the plagued past of a radically conservative president and move closer to a better relationship with all students, even if they have differing political views.

All members seemed to agree that the history of this group will not define their future. They are not a radical, unaccepting group that people may view them as. In actuality, they are open to any and all students.

Their abilities may be limited because of their defunct label.. However, next semester they are determined to be a more prevalent student group on campus. With the end of the first semester approaching and winter break on the horizon, YAF will not be waiting long until they can resolve their defunct label and be a recognized student group once again. YAF is ready to move in their new direction with new members and new leadership, their optimism is something to be ambitious about.


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