Iowa State University (ISU) will host its 17th annual First Amendment Days this week—connecting students, faculty, staff, and local residents with what it means to freely think, speak, and otherwise express yourself in an open, pluralistic society. Mark Witherspoon, editorial advisor for the Iowa State Daily, launched the event in 2003 after noticing a troubling trend in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. A series of polls suggested that American opinions towards civil liberties, including attitudes about press freedom, were shifting toward limiting expression.
ISU’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication has continued to build on that first year, now hosting the event annually.
“We were excited to continue our support of Iowa State,” said Sarah Ruger, director of Free Expression at the Charles Koch Institute. “The university’s commitment to engaging the campus community on First Amendment principles and to ensuring the preservation of Americans’ civil liberties is as important today as it was when they held the inaugural event in 2003.”
Demonstrating the relevance of its programming, Iowa State will host Simon Tam—musician and founder of the Asian American rock band the Slants, and plaintiff in the 2017 Matal v. Tam Supreme Court decision, which considered whether denial of certain, potentially offensive patents was an infringement of free speech. Tam will appear the week before the Court hears arguments in a related case.
Programming for First Amendment Days also includes a live street art demonstration by Timmy Ham (iamsloth), a Feast on the First food event, small group discussions, a documentary film showing, a Democalypse march with high school and college students, soapbox speeches, and a First Amendment workshop designed to train future First Amendment champions. To cap off activities, ISU will host an interactive concert later in April in which top Nashville musicians perform and tell stories of activism that inspired some of America’s favorite songs.
Read more about Iowa State University’s First Amendment Days event here.