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Martin Hall Agency continues campus-wide First Amendment campaign

Written by advertising student Tara Maupai MHA First Amendment Team The First Amendment team at the “Taste of Freedom” barbecue

Students from Martin Hall Agency, the Reed College of Media’s student-run advertising and public relations firm, carried out a semester-long campaign to spread awareness about the First Amendment to educate college students on attacks against the amendment and raise awareness about the importance of defending its freedoms.

“This campaign’s main goal is to educate all WVU students,” said Lily Frye, junior capstone student and digital director of the team. “Through research, we found that there are a lot of issues with college students not knowing what the First Amendment truly means to us as American citizens.”

First Amendment hand stamp
Event entry stamp: five freedoms

As part of their campaign, the team developed a scavenger hunt and quiz that gave students the opportunity to earn an official “First Amendment Protector” certification. Currently, 134 students are certified, and efforts are ongoing. Students who earn the certificate can include the designation on their LinkedIn profile, resume or portfolio. The group also created a website and magazine with faux censorship covers to provide a glimpse into what it might be like to not have the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.

On April 20, the students hosted a “Taste of Freedom” event in a high-traffic area outside the Mountainlair. Passers-by were permitted entry to the event and access to a barbeque if they correctly answered questions on a quiz after scanning a QR code at the entrance.

For the Taste of Freedom event, MHA partnered with WVU Libraries to support the “Fight for #fREADom” initiative, a national movement to liberate banned books in institutions and draw attention to the issue of freedom of expression within education. Librarian Beth Toren attended the barbecue on behalf of WVU Libraries and gave out free books to students willing to learn more about the history of books being challenged, banned and burned within schools, prisons and political organizations.

First Amendment Table Display First Amendment Sign

“The event went really well,” said senior capstone student Lesley Janes, the team’s account director. “We had a lot of students complete the quiz, take a copy of the magazine and eat delicious food. We had a lot of people complimenting us on not only the campaign mission but our positive and encouraging attitudes and how fun the barbecue was.”

This semester’s First Amendment campaign is a continuation of last semester’s work, which included a deprivation series with faux-censorship activations around campus.

The First Amendment Awareness campaign is part of the College of Media’s Year of Reckoning series and is funded by a grant through the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University and its national 1 for All effort, an educational initiative to foster understanding and respect for the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.