New group aims to educate about conservative ideas


Sarah Muller/ Iowa State Daily

Robert Dunn, senior in accounting, leads the Young Americans for Freedom group along with Nick Riegeo, junior in agricultural business, and Ryan McCarthy, freshman in supply chain management. The Young Americans for Freedom put on the Conservative Coming Out Rally Friday at the free-speech zone on Oct. 9.

Zach Clemens

A new student organization on campus works toward its primary goal to educate the student body on conservative ideas and principles by hosting events and inviting conservative speakers to speak through its lectures program.

Young Americans for Freedom was born from its parent organization, Young America’s Foundation, over 40 years ago. The foundation is a national, non-profit organization with the goal of reaching young Americans and educating them about conservative ideas.

There are nearly 200 chapters on high school and university campuses across the country.

Young Americans for Freedom is a new student organization on Iowa State’s campus that was founded by current club president Robert Dunn, senior in accounting, who is also a former Student Government senator.

He is a self-professed “conservative convert” after having grown up in a liberal household in Illinois. He is working on his second bachelor’s degree at Iowa State. He previously earned a degree in political science from California State University in San Bernardino, Calif.

It was in California that he became a conservative activist, and he immediately joined the College Republicans when he arrived at Iowa State. He realized, however, that the College Republicans were restricted in their activism and group by having to stay in line with the political party.

Dunn wanted to do more and not be tied to one particular party or candidate. He attended a Midwest regional conference held by the Young America’s Foundation, and people there suggested to him that start a Young Americans for Freedom chapter at Iowa State.

“We’re here to educate the student body about conservative ideas,” Dunn said.

The group’s goal is to promote the pillars of conservatism, Dunn said. Those pillars are constitutionally limited government, support for free market capitalism, traditional family values and strong national defense.

“We are just here because we want to have an actual discussion on important issues, we want to give a conservative perspective and get an equal seat at the table,” Dunn said.

Ryan McCarthy, the group’s vice president and freshmen in mechanical engineering, reiterated this point. He said there are always two sides to each issue, and a lot of big universities and their professors are left-leaning, often presenting their viewpoint as fact.

“I don’t want to force my opinion on someone; I just want to educate them about what being a conservative is,” McCarthy said. “I think it is important for people to voice the other side of the story.”

McCarthy is a member of the ISU Ambassadors program and grew up a conservative. He said he has strong family values and believes in limited government and is a big supporter of freedom of speech.

He also supported the bill proposed to Student Government by Dunn to expand the free-speech zones on campus, which eventually was amended to ask the university to provide clearer and more concise language on the free-speech zone policies.

“I don’t think you should limit free speech to a little section near the library. It should be the entire campus,” McCarthy said.

Free speech is the current focus of the new group as part of a larger narrative on educating the student body on conservative principles. It has started the discussion by inviting conservative speaker and author David French to speak at the Memorial Union before Thanksgiving break.

French discussed the limiting of free speech on campus and how oftentimes free speech is decided by the university leadership.

“The truth is, speech that is offensive has no value, but what is offensive speech?” French said at his lecture. “Offensive speech tends to be defined by those who run the university.”

Dunn agreed, saying that some students are spoon-fed information and only know one side of an issue and take it as fact. This does not mean that members of the group will push conservatism on others; they merely want an open, honest discussion.

“I don’t want to stir up trouble, I don’t want to start bashing anyone, start dissenting someone’s opinion. I want to have an open discussion on how to better the university,” McCarthy said. “I want to find common ground where we do agree with other groups.”

Patrick Coyle, vice president of Young America’s Foundation and the executive director of Young Americans for Freedom, said that students do not get a balanced education and that they are not getting the full story.

“The goal is to make sure that students on campus have to the opportunity to hear and consider conservative ideas,” Coyle said. “Mainly the ideas of individual freedom, limited government, free enterprise, strong national defense and why they are important.”

They are important, Coyle said, because these are the principles that America was founded upon. Young Americans for Freedom is committed to educating young people on conservative ideas and want a free exchange of ideas. It will never endorse a candidate or political party. Their non-profit status prohibits the organization from endorsing any particular candidate, but the group does not restrict its members from voting for whomever they want. 

The group meets every Thursday night in Carver 204 at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome, Dunn said. It is focusing on continuing to expand to different platforms of conservatism and hopes to bring in more speakers during next semseter. 

“If you are a student interested in conservative ideas, or you want to get more involved in the broader conservative movement, this is the group for you,” Coyle said.