Stephen D. Solomon speaks to the Penn State community

Story posted February 29, 2020 in News, CommRadio by Shelby Lincoln

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Many students learn about the Constitution and the First Amendment in their history classes. The amendment protects every citizens’ basic rights to freedom of speech. Yet, these freedoms are still challenged in many public schools and universities.

On Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 6 p.m., Penn State alumnus and First Amendment expert, Stephen D. Solomon, spoke on the topic in the Carnegie Cinema. It was titled “A Revolutionary Idea: The Birth of Freedom of Speech in America.”

Solomon is currently the Marjorie Deane Professor of Journalism and teaches First Amendment law at New York University (NYU). He is also the founding editor of NYU’s website FirstAmendmentWatch.org.

According to the website, the mission of the platform “is to document threats to the First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and petition, all rights that are critical to self-governance in a democratic society.”

Solomon has also written two books on First Amendment law issues. His most recent book, “Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created the Freedom of Speech," discusses how the First Amendment and the Constitution came about. This is explained through a series of narratives from the early years of American history.

On Thursday, Feb. 27, Solomon visited a communications law class. The students are currently reviewing First Amendment law cases and how it has impacted decisions at various universities.

In the class, students were tasked with reading four articles about First Amendment law cases from different universities and be prepared for a discussion with Solomon. Many of the questions drew connections with the recent lawsuit from President Donald J. Trump to the New York Times for defamation, which is also a major First Amendment issue.

College of Communications Professor Cynthia Simmons advocates for stronger knowledge of the First Amendment.

“Most of you came from families where your parents kept you in line or schools kept you line...and you don’t really understand the outer contours of your freedom,” Simmons said, “Without that you may not fully exercise your freedoms, express yourself, and get the political accomplishments you’re working for because you pull back on your speech.”

Many students also share Simmons’ sentiment and believe that it is important for all students to understand their basic freedoms within the amendment, as well as limitations.

“When people think of the First Amendment, they think of freedom of speech but there’s a lot of other things that go into it”, said sophomore and broadcast journalism student Rylee Curry, “As a journalist, it’s important for me to use my voice...and a lot of people try to take away that freedom.”

 

Shelby Lincoln is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email sml5796@psu.edu.