First Amendment week continues its tradition 16 years later


Jack MacDonald/Iowa State Daily

Mark Witherspoon, editorial advisor of the Iowa State Daily, led the Democalypse March around campus on Thursday. The march on First Amendment Day featured a high school class from North High School and was designed to teach students what it would be like to lose their First Amendment. 

Whitney Mason

In its 16th year of celebration, First Amendment Week at Iowa State returns beginning Wednesday to continue the traditions with a few new additions, that started when the celebration began in 2003.

As a journalism student, Julie Roosa, assistant professor, who has an expertise in the First Amendment can recall not having celebration for the amendment during her undergraduate studies.

“It’s such a valuable opportunity to remind everybody about the First Amendment and why it is so important and to celebrate it,” Roosa said. “I wish it had started back when the First Amendment started.”

Roosa credited multiple individuals for pushing her interest in the First Amendment grow. Roosa said her first interaction with Barbara Mack, her media law professor at a journalism camp at Iowa State prior to entering the university for her undergraduate study started her interest with the First Amendment.

“Never had I thought about law, never had I thought about being a reporter at all,” Roosa said. “I just wanted to be a journalist.”

Roosa said that her editor at the Ames Tribune, who was a lawyer, solidified Roosa into wanting to pursue a law degree.

For this year’s celebration, Roosa has found herself at the forefront as the newly appointed chairman of the committee.

She described the description of her position as 50 percent teaching about the Amendment and 50 percent conducting outreach initiatives surrounding the Amendment.

“The idea was for the Greenlee School to embrace the First Amendment as a priority among several of its priorities,” Roosa said. “The position is designed to establish an expertise in the First Amendment here at Greenlee.”

Roosa said that while the school is coordinating its own First Amendments events yearly, she is also helping other departments at the university have their own events pertaining to the First Amendment.

One of the first things Roosa did upon returning to campus was set up meetings with individuals whose positions may overlap with the First Amendment such as the University Counsel and Office for Diversity and Inclusion in hopes of knowing the First Amendment’s position not just in the Greenlee School but across campus.

Roosa said that she had visited different lectures and campus conversations to see and understand the structures of the events and to see their failures but also successes.

Beginning in February, Roosa started “FirstUp” in the Greenlee school, a initiative focused on having informal conversations about contemporary issues happening involving the First Amendment.

New things to the annual celebration include a First Amendment workshop on Friday that will give community members the tools to equip their own events surrounding the First Amendment.

Roosa said that there are 25 participants and it was intentional to have the small amount of participants.

“It will be a nice size to work one-on-one or in small groups on planning for whatever the right approach is for the community,” Roosa said. “There are so many other ways you can plan events around the First Amendment and to raise awareness.”

Roosa said that the individuals to help her run the workshop include: Mark Witherspoon, editorial adviser for the Iowa State Daily, Gene Policinski, senior vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center in Washington D.C., and Andrea Frantz, professor of Digital Media at Buena Vista University in Iowa.

Another addition to the celebration was a partnership between the committee and ReAct Gallery, the galley center on campus in Morril Hall.

From April 2 until April 27 the gallery has a collection of art and memorabilia pertaining to the First Amendment.

Roosa said that she can sense on campus that First Amendment is a bedrock principle that is embraced at Iowa State. She said that the university is aware that it has a responsibility to balance between being a welcoming environment and having free expressions.

“I think what the ReAct gallery brings to it, it just goes to show that we are all on the same side when it comes to a lot of these important issues,” Roosa said.

Another new element to the celebration is the hashtag mosaic that will happen all day Thursday, with it’s revealing happening on at 2 p.m. on Central Campus.

Using the hashtag #ISUFirst on Twitter or Instagram, students photographs will be assembled into the huge mosaic of a picture of Beardshear with the five pillars of the First Amendment. All of little pictures of the individuals’ faces will make a larger photo.

“They need thousands of pictures to make this thing happen,” Roosa said.”This will be the centerpiece of the day, a reminder of the First Amendment.”