Iowa State University’s First Amendment Days offers attendees an annual opportunity to celebrate their First Amendment rights. This year, the celebration is virtual with a full lineup of online lectures and events April 12-16. All events are free and open to the public.
Now in its 19th year, First Amendment Days educates the Iowa State community about the First Amendment’s five freedoms of speech, press, petition, assembly, and religion. The week is organized by the First Amendment Committee, which includes members from the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, the Iowa State Daily and student volunteers.
With a theme of “Some Assembly Required,” First Amendment Days 2021 will focus on the power of protest.
Julie Roosa, chair of the committee and adjunct assistant professor and First Amendment Specialist in the Greenlee School, said the theme was selected for the 2020 celebration, which was postponed because of the pandemic. However, current events have shown it is as relevant as ever a year later.
“When we gather together for a shared cause, whether in small groups or large, we generate the power to create change. Examples are found throughout our history and still to this day. The freedom to peaceably assemble is sometimes not thought of on equal footing with the freedom to speak and to write. But all of the five freedoms of the First Amendment are equally important. You can’t have one without the others. They all work together. We are happy that this year’s First Amendment Days gives the freedom to peaceably assemble its due, even as we find ways to gather virtually this year,” Roosa said.
A few events are highlighted below. See the full schedule on the Greenlee School’s website.
- Join Gene Policinski and Robert Bickel, two leading experts in the First Amendment and the Civil Rights movement, at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 12, as they discuss the immense potential and actual power of our First Amendment freedoms to fuel positive change in society during “The First Amendment and the Civil Rights Movement: Our History, Our Present, Our Future.” This lecture is co-sponsored by the First Amendment Committee and Department of History.
- Bonnie Siegler is an author and founder of the multi-disciplinary award-winning design studio Eight and a Half. Her lecture, “Signs of Resistance: A Visual History of Protest in America,” is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 13. This event is co-sponsored with the College of Design and the Committee on Lectures, which is funded by Student Government. Make protest signs during the hands-on Signs of the Times Protest Art Workshop at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 13.
- Nadine Strossen is a Professor of Constitutional Law at New York Law School and the first woman national President of the American Civil Liberties Union, where she served from 1991 through 2008. Strossen’s lecture, “Hate: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship,” is at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 14. This event is co-sponsored with the Committee on Lectures, which is funded by Student Government.
- Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri, who was recently acquitted of all charges in a trial stemming from her arrest while covering a Black Lives Matter protest last summer, will present “Think Like a Journalist: Arrested on the Job” at noon Thursday, April 15. Several other Depth and Dialogue sessions will take place Tuesday and Thursday.
- Campus collaborations explore many facets of free expression. First Amendment Days has teamed up with University Library to offer Monday Monologues: The Power of Peaceful Protest at noon Monday, April 12. Join the experts from University Museums for Art of Resistance at Iowa State: A Virtual Exploration at noon Wednesday, April 14, to learn more about works of art on campus that seek to challenge the status quo.
- New this year, the First Amendment Days Pet Film Competition invited students to submit 60-second videos of their pets demonstrating one of the First Amendment freedoms. Online voting takes place through April 9. Winners will be announced at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 15.
- The First Amendment Workshop on Friday, April 16, includes three sessions designed to examine more deeply the challenges and opportunities provided by free expression. Led by First Amendment experts from the state, the sessions use current events to engage a dialogue with national scholars. Sign up for You Can’t Say That! Cancel Culture and the First Amendment (9 a.m.), Free Assembly in a Time of Polarization (10 a.m.) and Making Free Speech an Ally on Campus (11 a.m.)
- Maribeth Romslo, director and producer of the recently released documentary “Raise Your Voice,” and Mary Beth Tinker, a First Amendment advocate, will lead live discussions online at 1 p.m. and online at 2 p.m. Friday, April 16, with high school and Iowa State students. The sessions will explore the power of social movements through youth free speech in America. “Raise Your Voice” spotlights student journalists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following the mass shooting at their school; a streaming link to view the documentary through April 21 is also available.