Media groups give food, take rights

By on September 23, 2009

On Sept. 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the final time to establish the rights of American citizens.

On Sept. 17, 2009, Quinnipiac student groups attempted to show the importance of these rights by taking them away.

The First Amendment Free Food Festival, or FAFFF as it was named, welcomed students into Alumni Hall on Thursday for a free lunch from Panera Bread. The only catch: their First Amendment rights no longer applied.

The event, hosted by the student media groups, was in celebration of Constitution Day, a holiday created in 2004 where all educational institutions receiving federal funding are mandated to hold educational events about America’s supreme law.

Attendees were not allowed to wear apparel with logos other than those of Quinnipiac, wear religious symbols and were not allowed to congregate in groups of more than three. All communications and media were monitored by the FAFFF “enforcers.” Violators of the rules served time in “jail,” or were ejected, per the contract students signed upon entry. “Protestors” also saw their rights curbed when attempting to enter the festival, and were ejected.

The hope of the organizers was to help students better understand the freedoms and liberties they enjoy in the U.S. by attracting them with free food. Michael Riecke, manager of student media, was inspired to bring about the event after attending a college journalism conference in New York in March 2009.

“I hope by students trading rights for free food, they can better appreciate the First Amendment so commonly taken for granted,” Riecke said.

For many students, the main draw was the free food, although the educational objective of the festival seemed to have been achieved.

“I originally attended for the free food,” junior Kristina Lim said.

After paying the “price” for the free food, however, Lim said “after experiencing restrictions on free speech, FAFFF has greatly increased my appreciate of the First Amendment.”

Political science professor Scott McLean lauded the events of the day, saying, “This event has drawn many participants who wouldn’t otherwise realize today is Constitution Day or the importance of the First Amendment. The theatrics are clever and the food is excellent.”

Senior Keith Bevacqua, while enticed to attend by the free food, wasn’t so enthralled with the concept of FAFFF.

“The event was clever, but tragically ironic in the fact that while at Quinnipiac, a private institution, students do not have full First Amendment rights,” Bevacqua said. “Next year it might serve the community better to host an event asking people to speak their minds and exercise their freedoms rather than taking them away in order to appreciate them more.”

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