On April 29, the School of Journalism and Electronic Media (JEM) dedicated a First Amendment Kiosk as part of JEM’s and the UTK College of Law’s semester-long Liberty Tree/First Amendment Program. The McCormick Foundation in partnership with the Knight Foundation and the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University funded the program and kiosk through a Liberty Tree Initiative Grant.
“We need a reminder of how important the First Amendment is to all of us,” said JEM Director Peter Gross. “This kiosk will serve as a focal point for research and information about the First Amendment for our students to utilize in their studies for many years to come.” The kiosk, which is located in the Scripps Convergence Lab, holds a collection of First Amendment-related information and material provided by the First Amendment Center and by JEM faculty members.
During the dedication, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the First Amendment Center Gene Policinski said, “The First Amendment’s five freedoms are the underpinning of our democracy.” He went on to give several examples of how our five First Amendment freedoms—religion, speech, press, assembly and petition—have been threatened in recent years and indicated that “The history of burning books has a new adaptation—filtering. Technology continues to create new variations on old issues.”
The kiosk’s dedication was part of a broader set of First Amendment programs funded through the Liberty Tree Initiative Grant during Spring 2011. The program included: a panel discussion on “WikiLeaks – Transparency or Menace to Global Governance” at the Baker Center; a campus-wide First Amendment Week; a “Banned Books & Newspapers Exhibit” at UTK’s Hodges Library; a panel discussion on “WikiLeaks, the First Amendment and the Espionage Act” held in the CCI Auditorium; a viewing of the award-winning film “Good Night & Good Luck;” and a panel discussion on “First Amendment Issues” as part of a JEM regional “Going Online” workshop for high school journalism teachers in the Scripps Convergence Lab.