FAQ: Adopting Free Speech Lessons for Orientation & First-Year Experience Programming

college students sitting in a circle studying and discussing

Download this FAQ

What are the Free Speech Lessons for Orientation and First-Year Experience Programming? 

FIRE, in partnership with New York University’s First Amendment Watch, has developed a series of free-to-use modules, videos, and other resources for universities to utilize when teaching incoming students about their free speech rights and the principles behind the First Amendment. 

The video lessons are geared towards universities looking for resources to include in digital first-year experience programming or university web pages explaining student rights. The written lessons and activities can be used during in-person freshman orientation, first-year seminars, student government and student newspaper staff onboarding, or classes that need succinct lessons and resources.

What topics do our materials cover? 

Our lessons and materials cover:

We created a plethora of resources so universities can tailor the program to fit their needs. We are more than happy to work with you to determine the best selection of lessons for the time and space you have available. Reach out to us at orientation@thefire.org for more info.

Why should free speech principles be taught during first-year experience programming? 

Especially during freshman year, students are eager to exercise their free speech rights — joining student groups, getting involved in protests or politics, and finding new ways to explore their interests. For a school to have an open and robust campus climate for free expression, incoming students need to understand the importance of exercising their First Amendment rights and also how to respect the rights of others. Orientation and first-year experience programming can give students a positive environment to learn about their rights so they can make informed decisions about how to respond to speech they disagree with.

My team has limited time and many programs. Which materials should we prioritize? 

FIRE and First Amendment Watch are happy to sit down with your team and help decide which lessons work best for your community or how to distribute information online. 

If you have 30 minutes to spare for in-person orientation programming, we suggest. . . 

If you have 1 hour. . .

If you don’t have time for in-person programming, you could. . .

  • Use our video lessons in online programming or first-year seminars 
  • Create a webpage (like Arizona State University’s) featuring:
    • University commitments to academic freedom and the First Amendment
    • Resources for conflict resolution
    • Relevant videos from our program and the text of our First Amendment and Campus Life FAQ
    • Assign books from our list of Recommended Common Reads that prepare incoming students to be intellectually curious when they arrive on campus.

Download this FAQ