As President Trump signs an executive order supporting the First Amendment rights of students nationwide, more than a dozen YAF activists will be present for this new development in Young America’s Foundation’s ongoing work to defend students’ rights. For years, YAF has had the privilege to stand with our bold student activists as they fight back against discrimination from college and university administrators.
Among those in attendance, Young America’s Foundation is proud of the following students who’ve worked with YAF to defend their rights and boldly advocate for freedom’s principles–
Lauren Sagvold is a junior at Whitworth University studying finance and Spanish. She has been a member of Whitworth Young Americans for Freedom since her freshman year and recently became the chair of the chapter in January. Lauren’s attempts to host Ben Shapiro on campus were impeded when Whitworth’s student government blocked Shapiro’s appearance. While Lauren and Whitworth YAF have received strong support from the student body on all sides, they have also received some backlash from administrators who try to intimidate and silence the chapter. Whitworth YAF continues to fight for the right to share conservative ideas.
Kevin McMahon is a young and passionate conservative student attending the University of Virginia. He has spent his undergraduate career engaging with conservative and liberal students alike on important issues at Thomas Jefferson’s university. While he has been trying to foster an environment of free expression and open dialogue, the administration at UVA has been less committed to protecting free speech on its campus.UVA has sponsored a platform for many liberal speakers in the past, including Hillary Clinton and Angela Davis. Kevin has worked with Young America’s Foundation to reinstate the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at UVA in order to bring intellectual diversity to the university, but this effort did not come without its hurdles. In order to become officially recognized by the university as a student organization, the UVA administration imposed several anti-First Amendment requirements on UVA YAF, such as limiting the chapter’s freedom to associate on the grounds of religion or ideology. Thanks to Kevin’s leadership and Young America’s Foundation’s support, the UVA administration caved on their unconstitutional regulations, and changed their policy. Since then, the Young Americans for Freedom at UVA have been vigorously advocating for conservative ideas on campus by sponsoring several conservative speakers to restore a culture of intellectual diversity on campus.
Mark Kahanding was the founding chairman of the California State University, Los Angeles, Young Americans for Freedom chapter. For his first event leading CSULA YAF, Mark invited Ben Shapiro. When CSULA’s president canceled the event, CSULA YAF refused to back down despite the university allowing a mob of violent protestors to harass fellow students and block the venue’s doors. After the event, Mark and CSULA YAF sued the school with the help of Young America’s Foundation. As a result, CSULA implemented a new policy that would recognize and protect students’ free expression.
Matt Ronnau is a Junior studying Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the President of the Berkeley College Republicans and the Chairman of the California Federation of College Republicans. In the Spring of 2017, Matt and the Berkeley College Republicans joined Young America’s Foundation in a lawsuit against UC Berkeley in Federal Court over administrative violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Just recently, YAF and BCR won out over UC Berkeley, which fundamentally changed its speaker policies to ensure adherence to the First Amendment.
Maxwell Brandon is currently a junior studying business administration and accounting at the University of Southern California (USC). He currently serves as Chairman of USC’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter.
Since its creation, USC YAF’s activism activities include discussions, debates, and hosting speakers on campus. Last October, the chapter hosted Ben Shapiro. While the event was very successful, filling a 1,200-seat auditorium with hundreds more turned away at the door, they faced intense backlash and criticism from the USC community, and are still dealing with the fallout.
Abby Streu is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying economics and pursuing a French certificate. She is the chairman of her school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter and a member of the Young Americans for Freedom Board of Governors.As a YAF activist, Abby’s YAF chapter has faced multiple issues hosting campus lectures. Her chapter hosted Ben Shapiro in 2016, which saw students and community members storm the stage and block Shapiro from speaking. The following fall, her chapter hosted Katie Pavlich to speak on gun rights, which prompted numerous administrative hurdles as well as profane protests from students. In the fall of 2017, due to Ben Shapiro’s lecture on her campus, the UW System Board of Regents passed a free speech policy to protect students’ free expression on campus from being impeded by other students.
Grant Strobl is the National Chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, the campus chapter affiliate of Young America’s Foundation. Both Red Alert Politics and Newsmax have named Grant as one of the most influential young conservatives in the country, citing his work to advance conservative ideas and secure key free speech victories while in high school and as a student at the University of Michigan.
In addition to hosting several successful lectures, including speeches by Ben Shapiro, Jonah Goldberg, and Deroy Murdock, Strobl gained national attention for choosing to be identified as “His Majesty” when forced to list his preferred pronoun as a student at UMich. Grant’s writing has been published in National Review, the Detroit News, and has appeared on Fox News to provide the young conservative perspective on current events. After graduating magna cum laude with high honors from the University of Michigan, Grant is now pursuing a JD from Notre Dame Law School.
Connor Brinton is a senior at Grand Canyon University who will be graduating this spring with a dual degree in business administration with an emphasis in business intelligence and marketing. Less than two years ago, after a trip with his family to the Reagan Ranch (preserved by Young America’s Foundation since 1998), he founded the Young Americans for Freedom Chapter at GCU. Currently, he is the chairman of the GCU Young Americans for Freedom chapter. The chapter has already hosted several successful events including lectures with Jim Manley of the Goldwater Institute, Allie Stuckey, Andrew Klavan, and Michael Knowles. Next month, Connor will be hosting Ben Shapiro at GCU through YAF’s Fred Allen Lecture Series. Connor is especially proud of this upcoming lecture, as it was a hard-fought battle to secure Shapiro’s appearance after GCU’s administration banned Ben from speaking on campus. Working with Young America’s Foundation’s national staff, Connor and his chapter were able to expose their school’s ridiculous decision and get the administration to reverse their decision and allow Ben to speak on campus.
As the former chairman of the University of Florida Young Americans for Freedom chapter, Daniel Weldon has experienced several free speech battles during his time on campus. His freshman year, UF YAF hosted Ben Shapiro—the first conservative speaker at the University of Florida in nearly a decade. Building on that success, UF YAF hosted Dinesh D’Souza in 2018, but were faced with illegal security fees, leftists disrupting the event, and even the UF student government attempting to sabotage the event. Weldon, along with his successor Sarah Long, are suing the University of Florida over free speech and discrimination against conservatives by the university. Just as YAF beat Berkley, we will hold the University of Florida accountable. And that is just the battles we’ve had with our speakers. I can’t begin to iterate the amount of times leftists have torn down our posters, erased our chalk, shouted us down, or even, one time, assaulted a student. Like my chapter, there are hundreds of YAF chapters all around the country fighting on the front lines of the battle for free speech on our campuses. I am thrilled that President Trump is holding colleges like the University of Florida accountable.
Regina Barton is Chairwoman of Young Americans for Freedom at the University of Cincinnati, a group whose free speech challenges started before they even became a chapter.
Before becoming recognized by UC, a board of students had to approve the chapter. The Student Activities Board made YAFers jump through hoops to differentiate themselves from every other right-leaning group on campus. Barton and her chapter pushed back and were eventually recognized 6 months later. In the spring semester of 2018, UC YAF hosted Star Parker as their first campus lecture. Public Safety determined that the event would need security based on the potentially “controversial” nature of her speech and issued a $2,000 fee to UC YAF. After boldly standing for equal rights and free speech in talks with administrators, UC changed its policy and covered the security costs for Parker’s visit.
During the confirmation hearings for then-Judge Kavanaugh, UC YAF members put up posters around campus in support of his confirmation. An hour after posting one in a high traffic area, the Public Relations Director for Student Government took a video of herself tearing down the legally posted flier. UC YAF received threats of violence on Twitter and were called disgusting and derogatory names. After filing an open records request, UC YAF learned that the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies department even filed a police report against the posters.
Recently, UC YAF hosted Michael Knowles on campus. After Public Safety assessed plans for the event, they determined that security would be necessary and UC YAF would be charged. Barton and UC YAF pointed out that this amounted to content-based discrimination, administrators changed their mind and withdrew the charges.
Will Paltz has fought to bring conservative ideas to his campus in the largest metropolitan city and second largest university in Wisconsin. Paltz led the charge at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee to host Ben Shapiro and Carly Fiorina, as well as Dinesh D’Souza, who will be speaking this semester. Shapiro’s event was so successful that Paltz ended up turning away over 1,500 people. Instead of allowing his organization to build off of our previous success, the campus administrators have created new requirements and restrictions on conservative lectures organized by Paltz, impeding free speech.The administrators at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee have decided to prohibit stand by lines, require ticketing, apply campus policies unfairly, keep tabs on Paltz’s interactions, sandbag communication, and force his events into rooms that are far larger than anticpated audiences knowing those rooms are often not available. Regardless of these challenges and with the help and support of Young America’s Foundation, Paltz remains driven to hold successful events that foster free speech, conservative thought, and the open exchange of ideas on the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee’s campus.
Since her YAF chapter’s inception at Kennesaw State University, Jamie Hahn had difficulties with her administration. After finally becoming a registered student organization, KSU YAF was placed in the lowest of four organization tiers, which meant the group was not allowed to request any school funds–money allocated from student fees paid by everyone. The school was classifying student organizations based on subjective content, giving precedence to those which pioneered leftist viewpoints.
When it came time to host Katie Pavlich in March 2018, the school charged KSU YAF a subjective security fee because KSU deemed Pavlich “controversial.” Eventually, these blatant displays of bias led to a lawsuit against the school and faculty, which KSU YAF won thanks to Young America’s Foundation’s support.