You weren’t using those First Amendment rights, were you?

Monday kicked off Mass Comm Week at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with the First Amendment Free* Food Festival, co-sponsored by St. Louis SPJ with The Alestle, which is SIUE’s campus newspaper.

During the fest, people are offered the chance to temporarily sign away their First Amendment rights to get free pizza and soda. We all know college students will do almost anything for pizza! After all, it’s a fair trade… what’s freedom of religion, speech, assembly, etc. when there’s yummy mozzarella on the line?

While the students eat, their lack of rights is enforced by the Goon Squad, which may confiscate their reading material or make them cover up shirts or other items expressing an opinion. They may be ordered to sit with someone else (freedom of association) and discuss what we order them to discuss (freedom of speech). 

But the Goon Squad has opponents! There’s an Alestle staffer who will try to sneak copies of the newspaper to the land of Mass Communica, in defiance of the rules… who is then theatrically chased away by the Goon Squad. There’s also a protester outside the boundary exhorting us all to convert to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (may we be touched by his noodly appendage). Her flyers are summarily confiscated by the Goon Squad.


In all, 94 people chose to sign away their rights for pizza, and 33 others approached and decided against it. That’s a great turnout (particularly for a cold and gloomy day) and one of the most successful yet for this demonstration, which has been running for about 13 years (excepting the last two years, lost to COVID). 

It’s a lot of silly fun, but it underscores a point that is too often missed these days: we have had generations growing up under the protections of the First Amendment, and we forget how many people live and die in countries that have never had the freedoms we take as given. St. Louis SPJ is proud to be a co-sponsor and continues to advocate for the First Amendment and all its freedoms.