Student freedoms priority for Leadership Institute

Students were encouraged to provide their issues by writing on the ball.

An 8-foot beach ball in the middle of Centennial Plaza got Tech students talking about free speech, social injustice, Donald Trump, and many more hot-topic issues.

Daniel Lopez, who brought the “free speech ball” to campus, invited students to write topics of political and social discussion on it. He then asked them to sign a petition “to support free speech around the country.”

Lopez was hired by the Leadership Institute to travel to campuses across Tennessee and collect signatures for the petition. The Leadership Institute, a conservative activist organization founded in 1979, provides training campaigns, fundraising, grassroots organizing, youth politics, and communications, according to their website.

The petition calls for administrators to support free speech on campus. This includes not limiting where students can speak on campus, and allowing them to protest or demonstrate on campus so long as they do so without obstructing education or causing violence. The “free speech ball” is a tool to draw students’ attention to the issue of free speech and to get them talking.

“The ball is really just to get students’ attention,” Lopez said. “If you’re a student on campus, and you see a huge 8-foot ball, you can’t help but stop and stare for a second.”

For Lopez, however, the petition is more than just a job; it’s personal.

“I had a friend at Kellogg college, in Michigan, and he was handcuffed by the police and escorted off campus – him and two of his other friends – for handing out the Constitution, which I think is absurd.” Lopez said.

By working with the Leadership Institute and gathering signatures for the petition, Lopez believes students can change the current trends on college campuses.

“What at a lot of schools are essentially doing is making it so that students need permits and need to get permission through the school to do things that are part of their rights under freedom of speech,” Lopez said.

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