At noon in the Snow Family Grand Atrium in Schar Hall, people will be able to eat for free ... if they sign away their First Amendment rights.
Eat free or live free. You can’t do both.
At noon Wednesday, Sept. 26 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. It 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.
It’s always an appropriate time to learn about 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.
Elon University hosted the event for the first time last year, and more than 100 people turned out to swap free speech for a free burger.
“The event was a success last year not just because of turnout but because the playful atmosphere helped people gain a better understanding of what losing First Amendment privileges may look like,” said Colin Donohue, who organized the event. “Sometimes the First Amendment seems only like words on a page, so we use this event to try to bring it to life.”
Donohue, the director of student media in the School of Communications and the faculty director of the Oaks 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 Oaks, Historic and Danieley Center neighborhoods, along with the School of Communications and the Council on Civic Engagement.