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Journalism club takes 1st Amendment rights away from students

Jan 13, 2010
by Matthew Boyle, Student

Flagler College’s Society of Professional Journalists chapter President Caroline Young wants the club’s presence to grow on and off campus. Young took the Flagler SPJ chapter’s reins in May. She has pushed student members to organize exciting events, including a no-holds-barred “First Amendment Free Food Festival” on Oct. 21.

PHOTO: Lauren Belcher (left) looks on as Cal Colgan jails Victoria Van Arnam for breaking the rules at Flagler College’s Society of Professional Journalists chapter’s First Amendment Free Food Festival. Flagler’s SPJ chapter held the event to show students what life would be like without the First Amendment.
Photo by Brenna Antram

Under Young’s leadership, Flagler SPJ members turned a section of the college campus into a “communist” nation, “The People’s Republic of St. Augustine.” SPJ fed event-goers free food but they had to sign away their First Amendment rights first.

The event’s main goal was to demonstrate for students the importance of the First Amendment.

“This is what life would be like without the First Amendment,” Young said.

The communist regime, led by Young and fellow SPJ officers, dictated all activities inside the People’s Republic of St. Augustine’s bright yellow caution tape borders.

“Citizens” who disobeyed were jailed. Those who behaved were rewarded.

“It was bizarre, what was going on,” Young said. “It was just a normal day on campus. People were walking around and they were like, ‘What the heck?’ ”

The regime marched throughout the republic in full-fledged camouflage with batons and shields. The dictators even lit up cigars.

“The cigars made us look more hardcore,” Young said.

Flagler SPJ adviser Dr. Helena Sarkio said the FAFF impressed her and that she saw it as a way to get more student involvement in the organization.

“I hope it made a lot of people realize how lucky they are,” Young said.

Young said nearly 100 students gave their rights away at the FAFF, which almost doubled her goal of getting 50 students to participate.

“A lot of students were scared or a little bit hesitant to enter our republic,” Young said. “People were a lot more hesitant than I thought they were going to be.”

Sarkio said future Flagler SPJ events include showing local Boys and Girls Club chapter children the journalism facilities at Flagler and the regional SPJ conference in March.

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