Elon to host First Amendment Free Food Festival March 14

At noon in Schar Hall, participants can enjoy free food — at a cost.

Eat free or live free. You can’t do both.

At noon Wednesday, March 14, in the Snow Family Grand Atrium in Schar Hall, students, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to eat lunch for free. But only if they sign away their First Amendment rights.

The event, called the First Amendment Free Food Festival, is open to all Elon University students, faculty and staff. The event will feature students acting as police, who will direct people into the eating area, command topics of conversation, prohibit coverage of the event and otherwise ensure no one enjoys freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly or petition.

And now is as good a time as any to dive into Americans’ First Amendment privileges. According to a 2017 survey from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, 37 percent of Americans can’t name one of the five rights afforded to them by the First Amendment. And only 48 percent could remember freedom of speech.

“It’s imperative that we have an understanding of what the First Amendment offers and how it manifests itself in our everyday lives,” said Colin Donohue, who’s organizing the event. “The First Amendment Free Food Festival allows participants to understand what it looks like when someone tries to deny what we consider basic American rights.”

Donohue, the director of student media in the School of Communications and the faculty director of the Danieley Center Neighborhood, didn’t originate the event. It’s the brainchild of Michael Koretzky, who started it in 2006 at Florida Atlantic University with funds from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Since 2006, The First Amendment Free Food Festival has been offered on dozens of college campuses. The event at Elon is sponsored by the Danieley Center, Historic and Colonnades neighborhoods, along with the School of Communications.