Metzger: A chance to speak out

While the First Amendment provides many important freedoms for United States citizens, individuals may feel harmed by those freedoms such as freedom of speech.

Logan Metzger

The First Amendment offers five freedoms to all citizens of the United States: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. It was adopted into the United States Constitution in 1791 along with nine other amendments that make up the Bill of Rights.

Here at Iowa State University, we hold a celebration of the First Amendment every year called First Amendment Days to recognize its importance and celebrate all it does to facilitate a diverse society. 

According to the First Amendment Days webpage, “a diverse assortment of speakers, events and activities are offered on campus every spring as a creative way to engage students and the entire Iowa State community to better understand the power of free expression. First Amendment Days is also designed to provide opportunities to exercise those five freedoms.”

This year’s First Amendment Days will take place April 12 to 16 and is titled: “Some Assembly Required: A Virtual Celebration of the First Amendment.” This is the 19th year of First Amendment Days, meaning it is the longest-running continual student-centered First Amendment celebration at any university in the United States.

As part of First Amendment Days this year, the First Amendment Committee has decided to create a session focused on empowering those who may feel marginalized, alienated or mistreated by the First Amendment. 

I was contacted to be a part of this session due to my column “Metzger: The price of my life is $4,021” published a few weeks ago. In my column, if you have not read it, I discuss how I felt that Iowa State University focused on protecting the free speech rights of one student organization rather than my personal safety or the safety and concerns of over 700 others from the Iowa State and Ames community.

I explained in my column how I felt disparaged by the university and how I felt that freedom of speech was more important than a person’s ability to perform well in their educational pursuit on this campus.

Julie Roosa, First Amendment specialist and committee chair for the First Amendment Committee, explained to me this session of First Amendment Days is meant to provide an avenue for individuals who feel harmed or otherwise marginalized by the free speech of others to exercise their own speech to make their feelings and thoughts about their interactions with free speech known.

So in this column I am asking other people who have felt these thoughts, people who have felt victimized, people who have felt harmed by the First Amendment, especially freedom of speech, to join me in this session and share our stories. I am asking that people use their freedom of speech to stand up and speak out against the speech that harmed them.

This session will be completely virtual and will not be live. It will simply be an opportunity for the speakers selected for this session to speak out and speak their truth. Speakers will be asked to read their letter aloud either with their camera on or off and then those videos will be compiled into a video that will be released on YouTube as part of First Amendment Days 2021.

So please, if you have felt victimized or marginalized by the First Amendment or free speech, reach out to me at [email protected] and let’s work on sharing your story! It is important to note that not all submissions for this session may be used, however if the submitter wishes, their piece can still be published in the Iowa State Daily as with any other Letter to the Editor.