First Amendment Watch, in partnership with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has developed a series of videos universities can use to teach students about free speech rights and the principles behind the First Amendment. The short video lessons can be used over zoom classes, assigned as homework, or shared on advisory pages to discuss the role of free speech and academic freedom in university life.
Please let us know if you have any questions, or tell us how you plan to use the videos by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The principles behind academic freedom are important for students to understand in any college classroom. This video covers the value of academic freedom in higher education, the rights of faculty, and how students can handle disagreements with their professors.
Offensive Speech on Campus
Offensive speech is nearly unavoidable in diverse environments such as college campuses. With the help of Nadine Strossen, former president of the ACLU, this video teaches students how to cope with and respond to offensive speech. Additionally, it teaches why the First Amendment protects “hate speech” and when speech loses First Amendment protection.
Campus Speakers and Counter-Protests
When controversial speakers are brought to campus, students often have questions about why such speakers are allowed to have a platform and how to respond productively to speakers they disagree with. This video covers topics such as viewpoint neutrality in administrative decision-making, freedom of association for student groups, counter-protests, and other methods of dissent.
Limits to Free Speech
Teach incoming students about when speech crosses the line and loses First Amendment protection. This module focuses primarily on defining and providing examples of harassment, true threats, intimidation, and other unlawful conduct. With this knowledge, students can more accurately gauge when their speech, or their peers’ speech, may be impermissible or may result in violations of others’ rights.
Talking Across Differences
When students enter college, they will meet people from all walks of life with different opinions, experiences, and backgrounds. This can be a difficult environment to adapt to, so it is important to help students develop the ability to talk across their differences. This skill will help students become more inquisitive and confident in their own knowledge.
Student Protest Then and Now
Introduce students to the history of student protest on campus and how activists throughout history laid the groundwork for today’s robust protections for student speech. By highlighting the role of university students in the Civil Rights Movement and in fighting McCarthy era censorship, this video is meant to empower students to be active participants in their university community.
Social Media and Online Speech Rights Lesson
The online speech and social media posts of both students and faculty continue to be a growing source of controversy on campuses across the country. With this module, we introduce students to how the First Amendment applies to online speech, as well as how to respond productively to speech they find distasteful without resorting to calls for censorship.
The Role of Student Publications on Campus Lesson
Whether they are recapping last night’s football game or investigating the latest community scandal, student journalists play an important role in campus life. This module is designed with an eye toward priming incoming journalism students about their basic rights and how to navigate speech-related issues they may face.
FAQ: The First Amendment and Campus Life
These frequently asked questions and answers provide the basic information incoming students need to know about how the First Amendment applies to speech on campus. This FAQ is meant to be used as a reference for students, which administrators can link to or copy for their own sites. FIRE and First Amendment Watch are available to help adapt the language to best suit a particular campus’s needs.
Three Arguments in Defense of Free Expression
When students enter college, they will meet others from all walks of life with different opinions, experiences, and backgrounds. This can be a difficult environment to adapt to, so it is important to help students develop the ability to talk across their differences. This skill will help students become more inquisitive and confident in their own knowledge.