If you are an avid reader of Polliterate, then you know Universities aren’t always the most respectful towards student’s rights on their campus. It’s something that needs to be fought for instead of passively complaining, by requiring students to stand up and speak out. Here are 5 ways you as a student can become proactive at your college.
1. Volunteer for organizations that will help you
Foundation for Individual Rights on Campus, or FIRE, is an excellent organization focusing on giving legal and monetary support for students who have been bullied by school administrations. FIRE provides countless ways to become involved including a free conference in the summer, supplies and resources to help spread freedom, internships, and an application to submit a case to their legal team if your school has completely disregarded your rights.
On a more local level, the Goldwater Institute in downtown Phoenix also has show enthusiastic cooperation with students in the past. As a non-profit and think tank in Arizona, it looks after misuse of power within the government, and college campuses as well.
2. Write for your student publication
One of the best ways to spread ideas is to utilize the press as a means for communication. Fed up with Free Speech Zones on campus? Write about it! Is the University refusing to allow a political figure to come and speak? Write about it! Or how about if the school is threatening to shut down a club on campus? Write about it! And once you’re done writing about it, consider submitting your article to a local newspaper, or alerting the city’s TV station about the story to get further coverage. Even if you’re not a journalism major, learning how to construct a story is a skill that can be picked up on relatively quickly. Just remember: always be fair. Resist the temptation to paint the administration in a bad light to win over sympathy. Showing both sides of the story will give the article both more credibility and wins over moderates to your side. Don’t restrict information or speech yourself.
3. Create a Free Speech Wall.
This is a great way to interact students, by creating a free-flowing of ideas on the campus.It may take some time and energy to make a very well-crafted speech wall, but the return of ideas on the wall is worth it. Earlier this year in September, the College Republicans club at ASU created a free speech wall right in front of the MU. Several students came to write everything from religious and political opinions, to drawings of cats and squirrels. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the students write, but the idea that they were allowed to express it.
If you need help learning how to create a wall, this is an excellent tutorial
4. Align yourself with Supportive Faculty.
Having professors or administrators as allies is a valuable tool in the future when things might become heated. They can vouch for your club, speak out against administrative aggression towards students, and provide an argument that could win over their colleges.
Some very supportive faculty members I have met while at ASU include history professor Donald Critchlow (he was also a very vocal protestor at his time at ASU) and Kristen Gilger at the Walter Cronkite School of journalism.
But keep in mind, this isn’t just about using a faculty member only when you need help. Having a mentoring relationship where they support your ideas is far more valuable. These are also people to use as club advisers and speakers at meetings.
5. Stage Creative Ways to Illustrate Points
Let’s be real– no one is going to go to a lecture on Constitutional Rights, even if there are free cookies. In order to get students to really care that their rights have been assaulted on, give them real-life examples with a creative twist. For example, last year Society for Professional Journalists on the downtown campus provided free pizza to students who would “sign away” their first amendment rights. Once given the pizza, students were ordered to cover up logos on their shirts, yelled at for talking to others, and forced to give up their slices for no given reasons. I can guarantee you students who went through this demonstration became more aware of free speech rights than those who listened to a lecture on it. Don’t be afraid to break out and try new ideas! Maybe stage a re-en action of a student’s dorm room being searched, or to decorate the “Speech Zone” on campus with free speech posters, and encourage other students to do the same. The more people you involve, the better!
And now readers, I leave you with this song to pump up the freedom defending. Keep up the good work!