Elon University students and staff had to decide whether to sign away their First Amendment rights in exchange for a free meal on Wednesday, March 14. 

“We read the first amendment, we see it as words, we kind of understand it in practice because we understand when we read a newspaper or watch a newscast what free press looks like,” said Colin Donohue, organizer of the First Amendment Free Food Festival and director of student media. “But sometimes it’s nice to play out those scenarios and understand what it would look like if we weren’t afforded those freedoms.”

Students acting as police officers restricted students from speaking about certain topics in order to enforce the attendees’ loss of freedom of speech. They additionally prohibited coverage of the event to guarantee no one appreciated their right to freedom of speech or press.

The First Amendment Free Food Festival originated at Florida Atlantic University in 2006. Since then, it’s been displayed on college campuses all over the country. 

Donohue was delighted afterward because of the participation from key players. Paul Parsons, dean of the School of Communications, held a sign defending his First Amendment rights and yelled at those who signed theirs away.

“Dean Parsons and other faculty, staff and students who bought into the roles, they had really made the event come alive and the First Amendment come alive,” Donohue said.