Speak up South: A Forum for the First

By: Lauren Barksdale | News Editor

Last Wednesday, Speak Up South, a student-led campaign promoting First Amendment rights, held a panel discussion. The event was in the Communications building and featured a panel of four guest speakers including Due South’s Editor, Sara Boone. 

The doors opened at 5:30 p.m. and there was lots of free food and desserts. The night was kicked off with a game of Kahoot, which tested the audience’s knowledge of their First Amendment rights with some varying results. 

“We did a survey and we sent it out to students on campus and we discovered not many students know what the First Amendment consists of so our main goal is to make sure that when people leave here they have a better understanding and they know their rights,” said Loretta Burems, a creative and PR team member for Speak Up South. 

The night continued with each of the panelists being introduced and sharing about their experiences with First Amendment rights in the real world and as students. Panelist Dr. Ahearn, a faculty member in the communications department, shared her experiences as an investigative journalist and how she was shot down on a story.  Boone fully explained how she handled being turned down by a printer company while in the process of launching the newest edition of Due South. All four panelists had a lot to talk about and answered a lot of questions concerning first amendment rights. 

While much of the conversation was held by the panelists, many people in the audience also got to share their feelings about the controversy surrounding the recent release of Due South magazine given that it was related to First Amendment rights. The discussion was a good way to talk about First Amendment rights practically, from the view of something that mattered to the students rather than just something that was in the constitution. 

After the panel and discussion, guests were encouraged to talk about the things they had learned. Cynchez Johnson, a communications student, said that before this, she knew only the basics of freedom of speech that was taught in grade school. but after the panel and discussion, she had a better understanding.

“I think I know just a little bit more than what I did before coming into it. I didn’t know certain factors played into it like the right not to say the pledge of allegiance,” Johnson said. 

Overall, the event generally educated people on the rights they had under the First Amendment and how they could put those into practice in their daily lives.