Iowa State set for a week of events celebrating the First Amendment

First Amendment Days logo

AMES, Iowa – A week of events on the campus of Iowa State University will celebrate the First Amendment and the essential freedoms it enshrines.

First Amendment Days kicks off on Monday, April 10, and extends through the following week with events, discussions, a free meal and art displays calling attention to the importance of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.

Iowa State celebrated its inaugural First Amendment Days in 2003, and the event has become a showcase for the university’s commitment to free expression and constructive and respectful dialog.

“The First Amendment is important not only on college campuses but everywhere,” said Mark Witherspoon, a former editorial advisor to the Iowa State Daily newspaper who has helped to organize First Amendment Days since its inception. “If it weren’t for the First Amendment, we wouldn’t have the United States of America. The freedoms that allow the United States to function depend on the First Amendment.”

A group of around 30 ISU students teamed up to design and install art exhibits across campus that spotlight the five freedoms. Katherine Kealey, a senior in journalism and mass communication and editor in chief of the Iowa State Daily, is part of the team that planned the art installation for freedom of assembly. The art exhibit will reside in the Enrollment Services Center and will involve multiple cardboard cutouts that provide questions and answers about freedom of assembly.

Kealey said the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press, means a great deal to her and the rest of the ISU students who work in the Daily newsroom.
“First Amendment Days highlights, educates and reminds students that they have these rights, and if we don’t exercise and protect them, they’re very easily lost or eroded,” Kealey said. “Everyone at the Iowa State Daily appreciates First Amendment Days as a time to celebrate our work and what makes our work possible. We’re fortunate to be on a campus where we don’t have to be fearful of censorship.”

New to this year’s celebration is an event bringing together journalists and faith leaders to discuss how matters of religion and spirituality are treated in modern news reporting. The symposium, called “Covering Faith: Fact & Friction in the News Media,” takes place on Wednesday, April 12, and is sponsored by the Faith and Media Initiative, a nonprofit organization aiming to ensure accurate and balanced representation of all faiths in entertainment and journalism.

Dave Saldana, a consultant with the Faith & Media Initiative and a former journalism instructor at Iowa State’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, noted empirical studies showing people of faith from around the world and across various religious traditions criticize the news media for too heavily emphasizing scandal and division when covering religious and spiritual topics.

“The Faith and Media Initiative wants to bring together people of faith and the media that serve their communities to address how matters of religion and spirituality are covered in the news,” Saldana said. “ISU's First Amendment Days is a perfect opportunity to do that, with its commitment to celebrating all of the freedoms the First Amendment protects, including freedom of the press and religion.”

A week of events


First Amendment Days kicks off on April 10 with the unveiling of five student-led art installations celebrating the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment at locations across campus. The freedom of assembly display will be located in the Enrollment Services Center, while the freedom of religion display will be found in the Memorial Union, freedom of speech on the lawn south of the Hub, freedom of petition at Parks Library and freedom of the press in Beardshear Hall. Free passports will be available at Parks Library listing the specific locations of each installation. Parks Library also has a free online guide focusing on the First Amendment, and the Ames Public Library will feature five First Amendment exhibits scattered throughout the library building during the week.

On Wednesday, April 12, the “Covering Faith: Facts & Friction in the News Media” symposium will invite local journalists and people of faith to discuss how religion is covered in the news.

The annual Feast on the First – a celebration that will include free food from Mucky Duck Pub, T-shirts and soapbox speeches – will take place on Central Campus from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, April 13.

For more details, visit the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communications website.