First Amendment Day 2016

UNC’s eighth-annual First Amendment Day was held on September 27, 2016.


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Each year, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill celebrates First Amendment Day. This campus-wide, daylong event is designed to both celebrate the First Amendment and explore its role in the lives of Carolina students. Students and other members of the university community read from banned books, sing controversial music and discuss the public university’s special role as a marketplace of ideas and the need to be tolerant when others exercise their rights. First Amendment Day is observed during National Banned Books Week.

First Amendment Day is organized by the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy with generous financial support from Charter Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable).


2016 First Amendment Day Events

First Amendment Day Opening Ceremony               
Front steps of Carroll Hall 9:30 am - 10:00 am

Small Photo of Carroll Hall

Help us kick off Carolina’s eighth-annual First Amendment Day!

Several members of the Carolina community will speak about our First Amendment freedoms and the value of those freedoms to UNC’s mission, to our democracy, and to ourselves. Also speaking will be a representative of Charter Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable), which generously funded the day’s activities.

This is who will speak:

  • Susan King, dean of the UNC School of Media and Journalism.
  • Cathy Packer, W. Horace Carter Distinguished Professor in the UNC School of Media and Journalism and co-director of the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy.
  • Erin Jones, director, government and community affairs for Charter Communications.
  • Brian Gregory, senior director, regional government affairs for Charter Communications.
  • Mary-Rose Papandrea, UNC School of Law professor and associate dean for academic affairs.
  • Maria A. Mullis, a senior in the UNC School of Media and Journalism and winner of the 2015 First Amendment Day Instagram contest.  She will read the First Amendment.

This event was organized by UNC School of Media and Journalism Associate Professor Michael Hoefges.

Free Speech and Humor               
Freedom Forum Conference Center, third floor of Carroll Hall 10:00 am - 10:50 am


With a nod to the election season, the UNC Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Team will debate the ethics of political correctness in relation to potentially offensive comedy. Then the audience will be invited to join in the discussion.

The debaters are all undergraduate member of the Ethics Bowl Team. These are their names:

  • Ariella Buckley 
  • Sarah Green
  • Brandon Herndon
  • Grayson Holmes
  • Sally Moore
  • Tate Overbey
  • Faisal Sulman
  • Brian Wong

The team is coached by Keshav Singh, a philosophy graduate student.

Cyberbullying, Free Speech, and School Discipline: Can We Protect Students in Constitutional and Just Ways?               
Room 5046 UNC School of Law 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Over and over again, we see stories in the news of bullied students taking their own lives or turning to other drastic measures to escape bullies. Because of this, state legislatures and school boards have created statutes and policies to address bullying and cyberbullying. In June North Carolina’s own cyberbullying statute was struck down by the state Supreme Court as violating the First Amendment. Additionally, zero tolerance policies – including those addressing bullying – have been linked to the school-to-prison pipeline. These issues raise the question of how states and schools can address bullying and cyberbullying in ways that are both constitutional and ensure justice for all children.

These will be the panelists:

  • Barbara Fedders, assistant professor in the UNC School of Law and co-director of the School’s Youth Justice Clinic.
  • Susanna Birdsong, policy counsel for the ACLU-NC.
  • Jen Story, supervising attorney at Legal Aid Advocates for Children’s Services
  • Chanda Marlowe, former high school teacher and current fourth year dual-degree student earning a master’s in mass communication and a law degree
  • David Ardia, assistant professor in the UNC School of Law and co-director of the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy, will serve as the moderator.

The event is being organized by Lindsie Trego, president of Media Law Society, a student group in the UNC School of Law. She also is a third-year student in a dual-degree program in which she will earn a law degree and a master’s in mass communication.

A Musical Performance by Cadence               
Front steps of Manning Hall 12:20 pm - 12:30 pm


One of the University’s premier female a cappella groups, Cadence will exercise its First Amendment rights by singing on the steps of Manning Hall. Don’t miss this! 


Banned Book Reading               
Front steps of Manning Hall 12:30 pm - 2:30 pm


Come out to hear members of the Coalition of Youth Librarians (COYL) and others from the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) support your right to read! The members of COYL – all graduate students in SILS – have organized a reading of children’s and adult books that have been banned from school and public libraries.  Organizational efforts were led by COYL President Holly Broman.

SILS Dean Gary Marchionini will be the opening reader.

This is the rest of the schedule:

From 12:30 PM-1:00 PM, the readers are will be Melissa Ferens, an MSLS (master’s of science in library science) student; Holly Broman, COYL president and an MSLS student; Evelyn Daniel, dean and professor emerita of SILS; and Brittany Burchett, an MSLS student.

From 1:00 PM-1:30 PM: Beth Blackwood, an MSLS student; Cal Lee, an associate professor in SILS; Jenni Royce, an MSLS student; and Brian Sturm, the Francis Carroll McColl Term Associate Professor in SILS.

From 1:30 PM-2:00 PM: Jim Curry, an MSLS student; Brenna Dickerson, an MSLS student; Anthony Joyce, an MSLS student; and Alyssa Spoonts, an MSLS student.

From 2:00 PM-2:30 PM: Stephen Kreuger, an MSLS student; and Erin Gallagher, an MSLS student.

Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces, and “Special Snowflakes”: The Politics of Campus Speech and the First Amendment               
Freedom Forum Conference Center, third floor of Carroll Hall 2:00 pm - 3:15 pm

warning-signLast month, the dean of students at the University of Chicago warned incoming freshmen that the university does not support “trigger warnings” as part of its commitment to freedom of expression, drawing criticism from students who said the letter distorted programs on which many students rely and ignored the hostile campus climate. Last spring, students at the University of Missouri demanded a “safe space” in a public area of campus, drawing criticism from the press and other free speech advocates who criticized Mizzou students for being “special snowflakes.” Here at UNC, students have protested to demand greater inclusion in the wake of several racist incidents; at the same time, other students have faced criticism for their choice of conservative campus speakers. Join our student panelists as they review, sort out, and debate the merits and drawbacks of these debates and examine whether and how campuses like UNC can create greater understanding about campus speech practices and the First Amendment, while also mediating conflict and supporting students.

These will be the panelists:

  • Brooks Fuller, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Media and Journalism.
  • Emily Yue, the assistant opinion editor of The Daily Tar Heel.
  • Caleb Johnson, a third-year student in the UNC School of Law.
  • Cara Pugh, co-chair, UNC Student Government Multicultural Affairs and Diversity Outreach (MADO) Committee.
  • Jeannette Porter, a third-year Ph.D. student in the School of Media and Journalism, will moderate the panel.

This event is being organized by Victoria “Tori” Ekstrand, an assistant professor in the School of Media and Journalism.

Student Journalists, Carolina’s New General Counsel, and Public Records               
Freedom Forum Conference Center, third floor of Carroll Hall 3:30 pm - 4:45 pm

Both student and professional journalists in North Carolina continue to complain about their difficulties obtaining access to government documents they believe to be public records. They complain about denials of access that seem to violate the N.C. Public Records Law and long delays in responding to their requests for records. Meanwhile, Carolina has a new general counsel, creating speculation about whether and/or how Carolina might change the way it responds to public records request. Come to hear what the new University attorney and our student journalists have to say on this important issue.

These will be the panelists:

  • Jane Wester, editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a senior history major from Charlotte.
  • Sharon Nunn, a reporter for Carolina Week, a student television news show. She is a senior from Houston, Tex., majoring in broadcast journalism and Chinese.
  • Liz Schlemmer, a second-year master’s student studying reporting in the UNC School of Media and Journalism.
  • Langston Taylor, a senior studying multimedia journalism in the UNC School of Media and Journalism.
  • Mark Merritt, general counsel for UNC-CH.
  • Gavin Young, senior director of Carolina’s public records office.
  • Amanda Martin, partner in the law firm of Stevens Martin Vaughn and Tadych in Raleigh and general counsel to the N.C. Press Association.
  • Jessica O’Connor, a senior broadcast and electronic journalism and political science major, will moderate this panel.

The UNC Cypher               
Room 111, Carroll Hall 6:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Come early to the keynote lecture and celebrate your First Amendment right to sing! The UNC Cypher is a freestyle rap group that performs every Wednesday night in The Pit. The rappers will be backed up by a drummer. You can read more about the group here.

Trevor Timm: The First Amendment in the Age of Tech Giants               
Room 111, Carroll Hall 7:00 pm - 8:15 pm

Trevor Timm

The 2016 keynote speaker will be Trevor Timm, co-founder and executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation in San Francisco. The Freedom of the Press Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping support and defend public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and law-breaking in government. The organization works to preserve and strengthen the rights guaranteed to the press under the First Amendment.

Timm is a journalist, activist, and lawyer who writes a twice weekly column for The Guardian on privacy, free speech, and national security. He has contributed to The Atlantic, Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy, Harvard Law and Policy Review, PBS MediaShift, and Politico.
Timm formerly worked as an activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Before that, he helped the longtime general counsel of The New York Times,James Goodale, write a book on the Pentagon Papers and the First Amendment. He received his J.D. from New York Law School.  In 2013, he received the Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award for journalism.

This is what Timm will talk about on First Amendment Day:  It has been said that the top decision-makers at Facebook and Google now have more power in determining who can speak and who can be heard than the Supreme Court. From the dominance of social media, to billionaires trying to control the news, and the use of financial censorship, what happens to First Amendment issues in the digital age when the Constitution may not apply?

Watch the video below

First Amendment Day 2016 Keynote: Trevor Timm, The First Amendment in the Age of Tech Giants from Center for Media Law and Policy on Vimeo.

First Amendment Trivia Contest               
Linda’s Bar and Grill 8:30 pm - 10:30 pm

triviaWhat rights are explicitly protected by First Amendment? Which U.S. Supreme Court justice said obscenity was difficult to define but “I know it when I see it”? Enter the trivia contest and test your knowledge of this most important Constitutional amendment. If you don’t want to compete, come to watch and enjoy the fun. You do not need to be 21. There will be prizes! The contest MC will be “Rockin’ Rhonda” Gibson, whose day job is teaching in the UNC School of Media and Journalism. This event is being organized by Lindsie Trego, a dual-degree student in the UNC schools of journalism and law, and Shao Chengyuan, a second-year Ph.D. student in the School of Media and Journalism.