Last weekend, more than 50 students from across the country who are passionate about individual rights and liberty on campus arrived at Bryn Mawr College to participate in FIRE’s 2011 Campus Freedom Network Conference. The obvious highlights were the keynote speakers, but attending the various speaker panels and breakout sessions provided practical perspectives on the issues of free speech and due process on campus. In particular, the stories from the students sitting on the panels made me all the more passionate about fighting for students’ rights, as their experiences made everything decidedly more relevant and personal.
I had the pleasure of meeting all of the students who sat on these panels, including Kelly Jemison, a program manager for Students For Liberty. She spoke on the second of two student panels about her experience working with administrators at her school, James Madison University, to revise its speech codes. Kelly subsequently wrote an entry for SFL’s blog reflecting on her experience at the conference both as an attendee and a panelist. She writes:
[S]tudents got the chance to hear from their peers on the students panel about the FIRE cases those students had been involved in. These inspiring students had risked their reputations and academic careers to fight for free speech at their schools, and as one attendee said, they were the true heroes. In addition other students shared their experiences about fighting speech codes on campus, something I had the honor of speaking about on the panel. It was incredibly exciting afterwards having students ask us for personal advice who were also intent on standing up for the first amendment.
Overall it was a powerful weekend that inspired not only a younger generation to action but also invigorated the most seasoned activists. The presentations and stories that were shared reminded us why we our engaged in this fight and how the ability to practice freedom of speech is in many ways the foundation of the liberty movement today.
In her post, Kelly discusses more of her reactions to the keynote speakers and other parts of the conference.
FIRE is proud to offer the CFN conference each year for precisely these reasons, and I am so glad to have been able to participate. The conference not only provides a venue for students across the country to gather and learn together but also helps us motivate and inspire one another to go back to our campuses and effect positive change for individual rights and freedom.