But there were many who bypassed this year’s First Amendment Free Food Festival on the UW-EC campus because they didn’t want to give up those rights. Not even for the 10 minutes that was required.
The five areas protected by the First Amendment – the freedoms of speech, press, religion and assembly and the right to petition the government – were spotlighted on Wednesday at the annual campus event, hosted by the UW-EC chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).
The three-hour event offered participants a free lunch – as long as they were willing to sign away their First Amendment rights temporarily. After signing the form, participants entered the “Democratic Republic of Freelandia,” a roped-off section of the campus mall between the Davies Center and Schofield Hall.
Once inside, they were subject to the whims of a “dictator” whose orders had to be obeyed before the pizza was made available. Many of those orders dealt with activities protected by the First Amendment, such as prohibiting conversations (freedom of speech) or ordering friends to separate while eating, since freedom of assembly didn’t exist.
Copies of the campus student newspaper, The Spectator, were stacked in a small pile that was taped down to the sign-in table, with the silver tape forming an “X” across them. That sent a clear message, even before the students signed away their rights: no freedom of the press inside.
Andee Erickson, SPJ chapter president, said the event was designed to encourage students to focus on their First Amendment rights. She added that she was impressed by the number of students this year who “refused to give up their First Amendment rights for a quick 10 minutes, and in exchange for free pizza.
“Whenever interested students approached the event, I often hopped up to them and said something along the lines of ‘free pizza or the First Amendment? You choose,’” she said.
“Students usually hesitated (before) giving up their rights” and a number simply refused, she added.
Toppers, a co-sponsor of the event, provided pizza for everyone who signed away their First Amendment rights. In addition to SPJ and Toppers, the event was sponsored by WUEC, The Spectator and the UW-EC Communication and Journalism Department.