Campus News

First Amendment Rights: Use Them or Lose Them

By: Stefany Olivas, Managing Editor | Photos By: Scott M. Roberts, Photojournalist

Education major Misty Lesiak said the First Amendment Awareness event presented by the Chronicle was an interesting approach, and that it defi­nitely changed the point of view for some students.

The event offered stu­dents, faculty and staff free pizza in exchange for the loss of their First Amendment rights while eating in the Republic of Chroniclelandia.

“It definitely changed the game on a lot of people. Most people are used to meeting in social groups, being able to actually talk about things,” said Lesiak. “There are a lot of countries out there where there aren’t any rights like that. They can’t meet in groups, and can’t talk about what they want.”

The rules included no using devices that can access news or other information, no religious paraphernalia, no sit­ting with friends, no complain­ing and discussing only topics from a pre-approved list.

While many students adhered to the rules, one student stood outside the par­titioned area in the cafeteria where the event took place and protested Chroniclelandia.

Pre-Health Sciences major Harriet Engle said she protested the event because it was a good way to practice her freedom of speech.

“I guess it just felt like the right thing to do. If rules are not just, then speak up. I am a child of the 60s, after all,” said Engle.

Even though Engle pro­tested, she thought the event was a good way to raise aware­ness of First Amendment rights, because many students do not know what their rights are, she said.

CNM Connect Achievement Coach Sally Moore said the event was a good way to raise awareness about First Amendment rights because awareness is what helps bring opportu­nities for change.

“That’s an interesting box to put people in and it’s good to appreciate our rights. It’s good to know that when they’re not there, that we can speak up and say something,” said Moore.

Society is indirectly giving up their rights, and many rights are unknowingly being taken away because people are so engulfed by media, most of which is propaganda, she said.

“I think a lot of what’s going on is really with our overt permission, but not nec­essarily our conscious permis­sion. People are so busy and so entertainment-focused in the media. It’s not always on the front page news, when our rights are taken away,” she said.

Engle said after the event she is now able to name her five rights from memory: freedom of the press, freedom to assem­ble, freedom of religion, free speech, and the right to pro­test the government to reform unjust or unfair acts.

People often don’t real­ize what they might be giving up until they don’t have it,” said Engle.

Most people would not know if their rights were taken away and most have not real­ized how severely many rights have already been diminished, she said.

Examples of some viola­tions of citizen rights are inva­sive searches by the airlines, an overload of incomprehensible paperwork to make major pur­chases — especially for college education, and excessive credit checks to apply for simple jobs, she said.

“One false move or misun­derstood post on the internet can literally be fatal. Members of the Occupy movement are arrested on frivolous charges, violating their right to assem­ble,” she said.

Moore said the aware­ness event was an opportunity for students to think about their rights in a way that they may not have had the chance to do before.

“Hopefully it’s a place to bring our values, our behaviors, our decisions into question so that we can either agree with them or not, and then decide how to pursue changing that if we want to,” said Moore.

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