Dave Hicks is a rising senior at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, majoring in philosophy, English, and history. Dave spent the past year studying in England at Oxford University. He is looking forward to returning to Gordon this fall as a member of the Presidential Fellows program. Dave is also an accomplished writer whose article on community leadership was published in The Washington Post in spring 2012.
On his decision to join FIRE’s internship program, Dave writes:
My first year of college was tinted by rose-colored glasses, emotional warm fuzzies, and rainbows that ended with pots of gold. As a first-generation American student, I entered my freshman year with few presuppositions regarding what college might be like. After just one year of study, I was quickly captivated by the powerful potential of a well-administered college or university. Thought-provoking classroom discussions and engagement with a wide variety of student groups gave me a glimpse of what it was to think critically and to engage with professors and students on issues that truly mattered. Now a rising senior, my courses have effectively forced me to challenge many of my own ideals and beliefs, while simultaneously reinforcing that the intellectual provocation I have experienced is an indispensable part of a good education. I have been made to feel uncomfortable, and I am better for it.
My interest in FIRE stems from my deep appreciation of American higher education’s noble ideals. Preparing young people to engage society as diverse and critical thinkers is one of the most important missions I can imagine. Unlike many of the individuals who have sought out FIRE to help defend their First Amendment rights, I have been fortunate to study with professors who promote this mission. I have never had to deal with my college president encouraging students to heckle at a play I directed, nor have I had my personal beliefs ruthlessly attacked during mandatory meetings with staff members of my school’s residence life. Unfortunately, evidence suggests that my situation is not the norm.
As I read through FIRE’s blog and Unlearning Liberty, I am struck by the extent to which many institutions have drifted from their proclaimed aims. A disheartening number of people are prohibited from expressing themselves in institutions that are ostensibly best fit to embrace such expression. I worry about the destructive impact of that prohibition, for the types of students it cultivates and the false suggestion it makes of what life is like in a free society.
My college experience has fortunately been very positive, and I genuinely believe that the world would be a better place if students were free to explore, engage and promote their beliefs in a similar context. As a FIRE intern, I aim to advocate for that better world. My hope is to leave the summer with a better understanding of the current condition of American colleges and universities regarding the First Amendment, while also helping students, professors, and administrators understand the importance of holding these ideals dear.
Welcome, Dave! To support FIRE’s internship program, visit thefire.org/student-network/summer-internship-program.