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BACK TO SCHOOL: Want to Host a Stellar Event This Fall? Here’s How!

By September 2, 2016

The leaves are changing, Halloween decorations are on store shelves, and students like you are heading back to school for what promises to be a whirlwind year! FIRE is excited to welcome you back with some awesome new resources to help you take your activism to the next level. Whether you are hoping to engage students in debate over controversial viewpoints, or simply make a statement of your own—hosting an event is a great way to engage your peers and bring attention to your cause.

A few things to keep in mind when organizing an event:

  • Begin planning early. If you plan on hosting an event, give yourself and your fellow organizers plenty of time to gather materials, advertise, get your event on the campus calendar, and gain administrative approval. It’s important to delegate and assign roles to ensure that no task goes unfinished!
  • Utilize available funding. With a little bit of legwork, you and your group can successfully use your school’s resources to make your event spectacular. The best way to obtain funding is to plan ahead! If you’ve never hosted an event before, ask peers who have to see what they recommend. Universities—through their student governments—often offer money to help finance events. Be timely when submitting funding requests. As soon as you know that you want to host your event, look into setting a date, booking rooms, choosing flights, and providing speaker honoraria, if applicable. Schedule meetings with your funding board as far in advance as possible to give your organization a better chance of getting funding.
  • Build coalitions. Look beyond ideology and reach out to other groups to amplify your presence on campus. Every student group benefits from having robust free speech rights on campus. It’s important to identify and stress this when approaching other groups for collaboration. Coalitions can strengthen the message and increase attendance for the event. Seek out groups with whom you can divide responsibilities based on each group’s strengths. For instance, some student groups on campus are particularly effective at marketing and ensuring that the event is popular. It’s not impossible to make a significant and sustainable impact when acting alone, but by working together administrators and other students are more likely to take notice.  
  • Leverage campus resources. Letting the community know that you are hosting an event will help ensure a good turnout. Draft a simple explanation of the event and send it to campus newspapers—they may decide to cover the event. Your campus may provide other opportunities to advertise events using existing infrastructure. Does the TV in the Student Union run community ads? Are there dedicated spaces to advertise events? Make use of the resources available on your campus.
  • Use Social Media. Leverage the power of social media to let your peers know about your event. If you chose to use a Facebook event to advertise, message people who have agreed to come and remind them about the event. Then message everyone who has said that they will “maybe” come and explain why your event is something that cannot be missed. Oftentimes, this little extra effort on your part will make the difference in someone attending or missing out. Remember, students are very busy with school, extracurriculars, and a social life. By messaging throughout the week before the event, you can ensure it’s fresh in their minds.

For more inspiration, watch our brand-new video, “Do’s and Don’ts of Campus Activism,” which was written by and features FIRE’s incredible 2016 undergraduate interns. Our summer interns jam-packed this video with the best tips for how to engage in activism on campus.

We are so excited to see all that our FIRE Student Network members are doing this year to defend and protect free speech at America’s colleges and universities. If you’d like your event to feature a FIRE speaker, please fill out this form so we can get you connected. We’d also love to send resources—such as our Guide to Free Speech on Campus, Guide to Campus Due Process and Campus Justice, and FIRE’s pocket Constitution—your way! And, as always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you or your peers are facing censorship on campus.

Good luck this school year!