This American Life producer is the keynote in a week of events celebrating free speech at Florida Tech

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By Ted Petersen, Ph.D.

Robyn Semien, a producer at the popular radio program This American Life, will be the keynote speaker during this year’s Free Speech Week at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 20 in the Florida Tech’s Hartley Room.

Semien has won Peabody Awards for her work on the double episode “Harper High School,” a story about a high school in Chicago where 29 current and recent students were shot in one year, and the episode “Anatomy of Doubt,” a story about what can happen when no one believes a rape survivor’s story. You won’t want to miss this chance to hear her share her stories.

But that’s not all we’re doing this week. We’ll have free food festivals where students get a free lunch but have to give away their First Amendment rights. We’ll have a banned book reading, a lecture on “All the President’s Men,” a panel discussion with local journalists and a free speech wall.  

The entire week is designed to achieve two goals—to educate students on the importance and challenges facing the First Amendment and to celebrate the fact that the Crimson is a free press. What gets printed in the Crimson is what the editors think their readers need, and what doesn’t get printed is what the editors think their readers don’t need. As adviser, I don’t determine their content. Neither does the faculty. Nor the president. Nor the board of trustees.

Pick an event or two and come support the free press and the benefits that we all enjoy because of that.

Dr. Petersen is an associate professor of communication in the School of Arts and Communication. He is also the adviser to The Crimson, Florida Tech’s  student newspaper and organizes the annual Free Speech Week.

2019 Free Speech Week Schedule

Monday, Feb. 18:

  • 12:30 to 3 p.m., Panther Plaza: The Crimson staff will host “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Cookies,” featuring a free-speech wall where students, faculty, staff and visitors may freely express themselves by writing whatever they want on the wall. In return, writers will receive a cookie.

Tuesday, Feb. 19:

  • 5:30 p.m., Link Room, Evans Library: Reel Reads: School of Arts and Communication professor Heidi Hatfield Edwards discusses the 1974 book and 1976 film “All the President’s Men.”

Wednesday, Feb. 20:

  • 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Crawford Building lawn: Students will get to experience life without the First Amendment. They will receive a free meal – a slice of pizza from Old School Pizza or a sub sandwich – in exchange for their First Amendment rights.
  • 5:30 p.m.: Hartley Room: Robyn Semien keynote address.

Thursday, Feb. 21:

  • 5:30 p.m., Link Room, Evans Library: a panel of Florida Today reporters and editors will discuss issues facing local journalism.

Friday, Feb. 22:

  • Noon, outside WFIT studios: Students, faculty and librarians will read from their favorite banned books. 
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About Author

Heidi Hatfield Edwards is professor of communication, and chair of communication programs in the School of Arts and Communication at Florida Institute of Technology.

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