With FIRE’s annual Campus Freedom Network (CFN) Conference just two weeks away, we asked Luke Wachob, a recent graduate of James Madison University and a 2012 FIRE intern, to share his experience attending last summer’s conference. While we certainly don’t think Luke is “weird” for caring “too much” about individual rights, we agree with his endorsement of our conference!
On his experience attending last summer’s conference, Luke writes:
I was that weird guy that cared too much about individual rights. When I learned about FIRE as a freshman, I excitedly visited thefire.org and started searching for schools: my schools, the schools my friends had gone to, nearby schools, famous schools, etc. If you’ve ever done that, you know what comes next: a crushing sea of “red lights.” Everywhere you look, schools are violating students’ First Amendment rights.
This can be a terribly depressing realization. I already felt alone in my passion for free speech, now I felt like the entire academic world was against me too. Sitting in my dorm, it didn’t seem like I had the knowledge or the support to stand up for my rights.
If there was ever one place and one moment to vanquish that defeatist sensation, it’s FIRE’s Campus Freedom Network Conference. As an attendee at last year’s CFN Conference, I got to witness an environment that shared and expanded my passion for First Amendment issues, and I’ll never forget it.
Talks from guest speakers and FIRE staff expanded my understanding of the law and philosophy of free speech, giving me skills to take back to my campus in the fall. Hearing firsthand from students that had been punished for expression solidified my commitment to fighting the injustice of censorship. And most of all, the CFN conference presented me with the chance to meet other students who share a passion for the First Amendment. Making connections with other young advocates helps build awareness, confidence and energy for changing school policy. It’s also a lot of fun.
I’m still that weird guy who cares too much about individual rights. But after my experience at the CFN conference, I know I’m not alone, and maybe not even that weird. Either way, I’m much better equipped to stand up for my rights. I know how to fight censorship, how to rally other students for support, and where to turn for help when I need it.
If you want to become a more effective advocate for free speech, or just to finally meet other people that feel like you do, you should absolutely attend FIRE’s CFN Conference this summer.
This summer’s conference is being held July 19–21 at Bryn Mawr College, just outside of Philadelphia. Registration, room, and board are FREE, and FIRE will also provide up to $300 to reimburse travel expenses for accepted students to travel to Bryn Mawr. Space is quickly running out so click here to sign up! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions and more information.