U-News has reached out to YAF for comment. This story will be updated as more information is made available.
UMKC’s Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) club sparked strong reactions from students after tabling at the Miller Nichols Library Wednesday with a sign reading “Hate speech is free speech.”
After setting up their table, YAF members complained to the school that other students were harassing them for supporting hate speech.
UMKC Director of Media Relations John Martellaro said that in response to these complaints, school officials told group members “they should expect strong reactions because of the provocative nature of the sign.”
The university was aware of the group’s plans to table, but was not told about the sign in advance.
Despite the controversial message, Martellaro said the school supports the students’ right to freely express ideas, “even if those ideas may not seem to reflect the values and culture of care that our institution strives daily to achieve.”
While the Missouri Campus Free Expression Act protects students’ right to free expression on campus, students and student organizations are held to a higher standard than members of the general public. According to the University of Missouri Student Standards of Conduct, students are prohibited from engaging in harassment, bullying, retaliation and discrimination.
The Campus Expression Act also prevents school personnel from imposing restrictions on individuals or organizations engaged in expressive activities based on the content or viewpoint being expressed.
Many UMKC community members expressed outrage at YAF, criticizing the group for promoting hate speech in the wake of last week’s hate-filled terror attack in New Zealand, which left at least 50 people dead and dozens more injured.
The group received strong backlash on social media, with students calling the group out for inciting controversy and fostering intolerance on campus.
(Photo by Benedict Keith Brooker)