Students in MTSU professor Hanna Park's public relations course are urging their peers to join the university's 1 for All First Amendment awareness program and learn about their freedoms with a PR campaign for events this week.
Along with a Tuesday, Nov. 5, public forum on police accountability with Knoxville News-Sentinel editor Jack McElroy, the class is promoting a "Freedom Comes First" information booth Thursday, Nov. 7, and a "Freedom Comes First" free lunch Thursday, Nov. 14, for the campus.
Park, an associate professor in MTSU's School of Journalism and Strategic Media, obtained one of several nationwide $2,000 grants from the Free Speech Center at MTSU for students in her Public Relations Campaigns course, PR 4740, this semester.
The grants aim to connect with students on campuses across America and help them learn more about the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Park's MTSU class decided that games, free food and other giveaways would draw their classmates' attention to the First Amendment.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits Congress from making any law that establishes or restricts any religion, puts limits on speech or the press, or hinders people from peacefully assembling and complaining to or seeking help from the government. 1 for All, a nationwide nonpartisan educational program based at the Free Speech Center, has been encouraging awareness of the First Amendment since 2007.
"In a highly polarized nation, it's refreshing to see students at Middle Tennessee State University take a stand for freedom of speech and the free flow of ideas," said Ken Paulson, director of the Free Speech Center and former dean of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU.
McElroy's public presentation on "Uncovering the Police: Converging Trends Threaten Public Accountability of Local and State Law Enforcement Across the United States," which kicks off the week's events, is set for 1 p.m. Nov. 5 in Room 201, the Parliamentary Room, of MTSU's Student Union, 1768 MTSU Blvd.
McElroy's report is the inaugural paper in the new Seigenthaler Report Series, commissioned by the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies in the College of Media and Entertainment. The series will explore current issues in journalism, chiefly focusing on press freedom, the capacity of the press to adequately inform the public and the changing nature of the press in a digital age.
The Nov. 7 MTSU "Freedom Comes First" event is set from noon to 2:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Student Union. Students can visit booths with information on First Amendment freedoms and, by correctly naming them, earn chances to score points tossing Ping-Pong balls into cups. Winners will receive pens, buttons, keychains and other prizes.
Students also will be able to enjoy free coffee and doughnuts and pop into an Instagram photo booth to record their fun. They can enter a grand-prize giveaway by posting their "Freedom Comes First" photos and following the @oneforallmtsu Instagram account.
At the Nov. 14 event, also in the Student Union lobby from noon to 2:30 p.m., students can get a "free lunch" of a chicken sandwich and drink -- with a caveat.
"To receive a free sandwich, students must agree to sign away their First Amendment rights for the duration of the event," Park said. "Then they will be shown the importance of the First Amendment and how it affects their daily lives."
To learn more about the 1 for All campaign and the Free Speech Center at MTSU, visit https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment. For details on MTSU's College of Media and Entertainment, visit http://www.mtsu.edu/media.