So You’ve Received Your Pocket Constitutions… Now What?
Students from across the country have signed up to receive pocket-sized Constitutions from FIRE. If you haven’t already, there’s still time to order yours in time for Constitution Day —September 17! But do you know what to do once you’ve got them in hand?
Here’s some inspiration for making the most of your stack of pocket Constitutions, as well as tips on bolstering free speech on your campus on Constitution Day and beyond:
First and foremost, be sure to read your pocket Constitution! Even if you’ve already got all 27 amendments memorized, it’s always worthwhile to revisit the document that provides for our system of government and secures our civil liberties. Pay particular attention—and be prepared to refer to—page 43, which contains the text of the First Amendment.
Pass them out!
Head outside and hand them out to your fellow students.
If you go to a public university, you have the right to distribute nearly everywhere outside, so long as you aren’t impeding traffic or making lots of noise. If an administrator tells you to stop, or directs you to your school’s “free speech zone,” get the interaction on video and contact FIRE.
While distributing Constitutions, educate your fellow students about their First Amendment rights. Brush up by reading FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus. An effective way to let students know about your school’s policies is to include a sheet in the Constitution with your school’s Spotlight rating and/or an explanation of your school’s existing speech codes. Feel free to get creative and think of other ways to grab fellow students’ attention.
Organize a “Know Your Rights” Event!
Reserve a space on campus and invite a member of FIRE’s staff to educate students, faculty, administrators, and campus law enforcement about free speech rights on campus. A presentation followed by audience questions can help the campus community learn about these issues together. Make sure to follow your university’s applicable tabling or event rules.
Host a panel or debate!
There is no better day than Constitution Day to celebrate the rights that it guarantees, like free and open discussion and the right to assembly.
Investigate discussion-worthy topics on your campus and invite speakers with opposing viewpoints to participate in a debate. Ask faculty members from across disciplines if they would participate in a panel discussion. Strive to ensure that different viewpoints are included on the panel.
Write an Op-Ed!
Pen an editorial in your school’s newspaper explaining why you’ll be celebrating Constitution Day by passing copies of the Constitution, and tie it to a broader discussion of the state of free speech on your campus. It’s a great way to amplify your message and spread the word to students or faculty that you may not have run into on the quad.
Including a call to action—such as calling for your school to adopt the Chicago Statement, or to ditch a restrictive (and possibly unconstitutional) free speech zone policy—is an effective way to stand up for your rights and educate fellow students on theirs.
No matter what you plan to do on Constitution Day, remember to stress to your fellow students, staff, and faculty that understanding and protecting student rights is beneficial for everyone on campus.