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Free food or free speech
October 12, 2007
With the promise of free pizza, members of PLU’s student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists lured fellow Lutes to enter their fictitious nation, the People’s Republic of Parkland, last Tuesday.
In America, the Bill of Rights’ First Amendment grants the freedom of religion, speech and the press, as well as the right to peaceful assembly and to petition the government. But in the People’s Republic of Parkland, these so-called “inalienable” rights were null and void.
Instead, a “Circle of Dictators,” portrayed by theater students, and “The Queen,” portrayed by communication professor Joanne Lisosky, presided over the nation. Their rules – no matter how unfair or absurd – were law.
Theater students and some in Lisosky’s “Communication Law” course depicted characters that symbolized the rights granted by the First Amendment. For example, a nun and a monk exercised their religion by praying; Beatles member John Lennon and Black Panther Angela Davis, attempted to peacefully protest the restricting government; and a news reporter unsuccessfully tried to interview residents of the nation.
The event was designed to demonstrate to the campus community the importance and value of their First Amendment rights, explained student Breanne Coats, vice president of the SPJ chapter. This year, one focus of the student chapter will be issues related to the First Amendment.
“The First Amendment is the most important amendment,” agreed student Rhetta Meier. “I feel like it’s everything this country is based on … it’s the foundation of our freedoms.”
While the scenarios acted out by the theater students were exaggerated, it was a purposeful exaggeration that illustrated the limitations placed on the people and the control exercised by those in power when these rights are taken away, Coats said.
“We’re given these privileges from day one,” said Tove Tupper, president of the SPJ chapter. “We just walk out and have these rights.”
Many Americans take these rights for granted because they haven’t experienced life without them, Tupper explained. She compared it to losing a parent: it’s easy to take that parent for granted when they are alive, but once they’re gone, you appreciate them more.
“We are lucky to have these rights, but I think we take them for granted,” said student Lorna Rodriguez. “I know I don’t think about this on a daily basis. Its just part of my routine.”
Several students also stood silently along the border of the Republic of Parkland holding signs. The signs depicted the true stories of people living in countries that repress these freedoms. SPJ members found most of the stories online.
The event was co-sponsored by the Western Washington professional SPJ chapter.
For more information, contact the student chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
University Communications staff writer Megan Haley compiled this report, and University Photographer Jordan Hartman created the audio-slideshow. Comments, questions, ideas? Please contact Haley at ext. 8691 or at email@example.com, or Hartman at ext. 7517 or firstname.lastname@example.org.