September 17, Constitution Day, is just around the corner. For students, this national celebration is a perfect opportunity to kick off the school year by drawing attention to free speech issues on your campus. Here are a few ideas to get started:
1. Build a Free Speech Wall. To hold a free speech wall event, organizers build a temporary wall out of cardboard or plywood, or put up paper on a the wall of a building, and provide markers for students to write, draw, or post anything they want. Like free speech, this is an event that can and should cross partisan lines. For example, Sam Houston State’s wall last year was sponsored by student groups from across the political spectrum, with the school’s Lovers of Liberty, Bearkat Democrats, Democratic Socialists, and College Republicans all participating. Check out these examples of successful walls on campuses across the country.
2. Host a free speech event or protest. In addition to free speech walls, student groups have held events such as campus speakers, readings of banned books, “food or freedom” exchanges, trivia events (you could use the Constitution Facts link below), and flyer distributions from their schools’ speech zones. Be creative, and see the event links below for more ideas.
3. Write a column or op-ed supporting free speech on your campus. This recent article by Aaron Fried at Brandeis University is a great example of the persuasive pieces students write each year to advocate for free speech at their schools. Even if you’re not already involved with a publication, at most schools any student can submit a guest op-ed for consideration. Check out FIRE’s op-ed guide to get started.
4. Distribute FIRE’s newly updated Guide to Free Speech on Campus. There’s still time to request copies of the second edition of FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus to hand out on Constitution Day! Email email@example.com for more information. Pocket constitutions are another great option for distributing on campus, and I’ve listed a few places you can request or buy them at the links below.
5. Challenge your school’s speech codes. Check out your school’s page in FIRE’s Spotlight database and see what you need to do to achieve a “green light” rating for your institution. CFN members at James Madison University, The College of William & Mary, and the University of Virginia have all run successful campaigns that landed their schools on our 2012 Best Colleges for Free Speech list. With your help, your school can be next!
However you decide to celebrate, send pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured on FIRE’s blog!
Constitution Day quizzes & facts:
- The Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution http://ratify.constitutioncenter.org/constitution/index_no_flash.php
- “Creating the Constitution” http://myloc.gov/Exhibitions/creatingtheus/interactives/constitution/index.html
- “Creating the Bill of Rights” http://myloc.gov/Exhibitions/creatingtheus/interactives/bill_of_rights/index.html
- Student Press Law Center’s First Amendment quiz
- Constitution Facts
- The Constitution Quiz
- Illinois First Amendment Center games http://www.illinoisfirstamendmentcenter.com/activities.php
Order pocket constitutions:
- Free pocket Constitutions (one per person)— http://www.thecapitol.net/Publications/PocketConstitution.html, http://www.nccs.net/us_constitution.html
- National Center for Constitutional Studies, $0.35 per copy for bulk orders
- Heritage Foundation, $0.50 per copy for bulk orders
- ConstitutionFacts.com, 1 free, $1.25 per copy for bulk orders
- Young Americans for Liberty, $2.00 per copy for bulk orders, YAL groups only
Even more event ideas:
- Throw a Constitution reading party http://www.wereadtheconstitution.com/
- “Food for Freedom” exchange http://thefire.org/article/7299.html
- “Unconstitutional Gorilla” http://www.campusreform.org/blog/?ID=2303
- Suggestions from Young Americans for Liberty http://www.yaliberty.org/activism/constitution/2009
- Suggestions from The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/ref/college/collegespecial2/coll-constitutionday-print.html