YAF officers meet with Phyllis Schlafly after her lecture at FIU
History of Young Americans for Freedom at Florida International University
The Young Americans for Freedom chapter at FIU was founded during the 1992 presidential election to help combat the liberal forces which have traditionally controlled campus politics and campus life. Craig Herrero returning from the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington DC had made contact with members of the national YAF. He returned to FIU and formed the first Chapter of YAF on campus. The initial goal was to mobilize a larger number of people on campus to participate in the upcoming election. After the election, YAF continued the struggle through a policy of unrelenting opposition to liberal bias within the University community.
In late 1992, the first FIU YAF newsletter was published. The name of this initial newsletter was "the Voice of Freedom", and there were but two contributors to it who referred to themselves simply as Excalibur and the Maverick. Admittedly, production value was somewhat lacking in this original newsletter. "The Voice of Freedom" did not resurface for another issue, though the campus liberals took it upon themselves to make a mock issue #2 trying to portray YAF as a fanatical fascist organization. Until a better way of producing and distributing information could be found, YAF decided to concentrate on distributing third party literature such as that produced by Accuracy in Academia.
In November of 1992, a few days after the elections, Jesse Jackson came to speak at Florida International University. Young Americans for Freedom along with the College Republicans marched through the streets around FIU with posters denouncing the Reverend's defense of Abortion on demand, support of racist rapper Sister Souljah, and of his sympathies with Marxist-Leninist regime's such as Cuba. Members of YAF distributed fliers at the entrance of the lecture titled "Jesse Jackson in His Own Words" quoting Jackson on the record making anti-semitic remarks, supporting a young lady who called for a week to go "out and kill white people", citing his embrace of Fidel Castro when he visited Cuba, and his corrupt practices. Members of YAF mocking Jackson's notorious chant of "Hey-hey, Ho-ho Western Civ has got to go" changed it to "Hey-hey, Ho-ho Jesse Jackson has got to go!" The Beacon, the campus newspaper, described it as a Conservative Uproar.
Throughout the 1993 school year, the liberal Stonewall Gay & Lesbian Student Organization had been allowed to hang a large banner in the center of the Graham Center "pit" area, which is the central part of the building housing the Student Government and Student Activities areas. The banner was crude and hand made, but was placed in a position of more importance than those of the other clubs, including YAF, whose own "Live Free or Die" banner was relegated to the second floor catwalk like all the others. When questioned, the Graham Center administration claimed that any club could hang a large vertical banner like that of Stonewall if they asked to. A short time later Stonewall posted fliers attacking Christianity when members of the Campus ministry complained. The administration defended the right of Stonewall to criticize, as long as they weren't inciting to violence. It was understood that religion could be attacked, eventhough it was a protected category in the University.
YAF decided to test them on this policy of supporting free speech and take them up on the offer of placing it in a central location, and the following Fall, requested funds to have a 4 foot x 10 foot banner made with a simple statement of beliefs which paraphrased both a popular conservative poster, and the Sharon Statement. It said; "We believe life is sacred, marriage is forever, government is too big and homosexuality is deviant behavior. We believe in God, We believe that liberty is indivisible and political freedom can not long exist without a laissez-faire free market. We believe unborn children with beating hearts should be allowed to live. Unpopular as it may seem we're proud of being politically incorrect. If you are too, join YAF.
Though the YAF banner at 4 feet x 10 feet was still significantly smaller than the one placed by the Stonewall student group, it had been professionally made using the funds which YAF had requested for that specific purpose. For this reason, the banner had to say "sponsored by SGA" to stay within the rules. The banner was placed during late spring 1994, in approximately the same area where the Stonewall banner had hung.
Soon thereafter, the controversy started. A disgruntled student, upset at the fact that YAF like any other student group in good standing had been given funds wrote a long letter to the school newspaper the Beacon. In it she accused YAF of being something of a covert organization with a secret agenda. She had apparently missed the meeting times posted on every one of the flyers she says she'd seen. The strongest criticism was reserved for the banner which was apparently particularly offensive since it said that it was sponsored by SGA which only really meant it had been made with SGA funds.
The following issue of the Beacon contained a response from YAF Chairman Cesar Vasquez, inviting the student to attend a YAF meeting if she was really interested in finding out more. Vasquez also pointed out that her criticisms were unfounded since the banner simply stated the beliefs of the organization, and made no attempt to change anyone's way of thinking per se. It merely was a means for like minded individuals to become aware of YAF's presence on campus and for them to Join if they wanted to. None the less, the following issue of the Beacon contained two letters criticizing Vasquez's response. The staff of the Beacon also put a request that all the letters should stop and everyone should just try to accept the fact that there would be no agreement on these issues any time soon.
Despite this "can't we all just get along?" request, the Beacon soon printed a letter from a part time professor claiming that a friend of his who teaches at Harvard and graduated from FIU was offended by the banner when he came to visit because he is gay. He suggested that this would mean that many gay professors wouldn't want to come to teach at FIU any more, he called for YAF to be censured. He also claimed that many students may have suffered "psychological damage" leading possibly to poor academic performance as a result of the banner. Apparently the flood of mail in response against this professor's rather melodramatic letter was such that the Beacon was forced to print more letters in support of YAF. The following issue contained a letter from another professor stating that when free speech is respected, both the University and the community come out winners. The beacon had to admit that it had called for a stop to the letters regarding the banner, then printed another one against it, but excused themselves by saying that they had simply misjudged the "breadth and depth of emotion engendered by this topic". EL Nuevo Herald (the Spanish version of the Miami Herald covered the story) below is the photo they took of Cesar Vasquez with YAF's advisor standing on the second floor of the Graham Center. The banner at a distance hanging behind them in the center of the Student Union.
In an interesting footnote to this story, the rules for the use of Student Government funds now require that instead of saying "sponsored by SGA" any materials purchased for advertizing purposes must say "funded by SGA"
At about this time, YAF came out with it's first issue of VOX LIBERTAS, our new (and improved) newsletter. Gone were the pen names, and an editorial decision was made that any contributors had to use their own names from now on. The first issue was dedicated to the controversy surrounding the YAF banner, and the furor it had caused. The club had also made a great effort to make the quality of this newsletter much better, and it included both a humorous flyer and an editorial cartoon. Unfortunately VOX LIBERTAS would suffer many of the same setbacks it's predecessor had and a second issue didn't' follow for quite a while.
In January of 1995, in response to an article the Beacon ran trying to acquit Marxism, YAF bought a full page advertizement which simply quoted Karl Marx directly. Unlike the Beacon's article, the YAF advertizement cited sources so anyone not convinced could see for themselves. The quotes were simply placed there for all to see and for the reader to come to his own conclusion. Among these quotes were some of Marx's anti- Semitic and racist statements such as "...What is the profane basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly cult of the jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money."
The Beacon apparently found the anti-Marx ad to be in enough disagreement with their own philosophies that they placed a disclaimer at the bottom of the article claiming that "the content of this advertizement does not necessarily reflect the opinions [of] the Beacon or its staff." What is most interesting about the disclaimer is that they did not repeat it in their March 8 issue when printing a half page statement from the International Socialist Organization (ISO) which claimed on it's very first line to be a direct response to YAF's ad. Amusingly, the ISO claimed that YAF had printed "distorted quotes which were taken out of context," though they never bothered to explain either how calling someone a "greasy Jew disguised under brilliantine and cheap jewels" could be taken out of context, or in what context such a quote shouldn't be considered racist.
In November of 1996 former YAF officer Renier Diaz de la Portilla was elected to the Dade County School Board. Throughout our years of existence, YAF has attended both Orlando Florida conventions hosted by the Young America's Foundation, as well as Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum Collegiate's first annual leadership seminar. YAF also lobbied to bring conservative speakers starting with Phyllis Schlafly, with the help of Young Americas Foundation, Jack Kemp, and later Pat Buchanan. Aside from our own newsletter, VOX LIBERTAS, which is now regularly distributed, we distribute CAMPUS: AMERICA'S STUDENT NEWSPAPER, and Campus Report, produced by Accuracy in Academia These are part of FIU YAF's contributions to maintaining fairness and balance in what would otherwise be a biased campus environment.