Shut Up

“That’s ridiculous!” “Can you do that?” and “OK, no problem” were some of the reactions FAU students had to the question: Would you give away your First Amendment rights for free food?

That’s exactly what more than 400 FAU students did Monday during the “First Amendment Free Food Festival” held in honor of Constitution Day.

The hedged area behind the University Center on the Boca campus was transformed into a country were First Amendment rights didn’t exist. Students entered through an 8-foot communist-style guard gate to get free Quizno’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Starbucks-more than $600 worth of food-after they had “theoretically waived their rights” to freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and to petition the government for grievances.

Straight from the brain of Michael Koretzky, adviser to the University Press, this two-hour event took a novel approach to the federally mandated Constitution Day celebration that every government-funded school must hold (see sidebar). After winning a $1,000 federal grant and getting support from many local businesses, Koretzky and two FAU students worked to make the idea a reality.

“Instead of doing something ordinary we tried to do something different and unique,” said Michele Boyet, an FAU sophomore and student coordinator for the event. “A lot of students take for granted their First Amendment rights. Some don’t even know what they are.”

Cameras from local TV news stations and reporters from the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel and Jewish Journal watched as students were told what to eat and where to sit. Groups like Chabad Student Center and Students for Israel were thrown out for holding religious demonstrations, and members of the press were dragged out by goons dressed in camouflage.

The event was the first of its kind and a prototype for Constitution Day events around the country. Koretzky and his team will submit a tape of their event to Society of Professional Journalists and College Media Advisers, two national organizations, and if it’s approved, they will provide funding for this event to be held at schools around the nation.

Boyet and junior Anthony Choman, the event’s volunteer coordinator, will act as consultants, advising other schools on how to host the event.

Besides being a new way to celebrate Constitution Day and experience First Amendment rights first-hand, the event was an opportunity for many of FAU’s clubs to come together in one place.

Nearly 10 clubs attended the event, which had tables for students to promote their clubs and talk with others students while they ate free food.

“It’s a way to bring the whole campus together,” said Choman, who got more than 40 of his fraternity brothers from SigEp to volunteer as goons, food servers and a clean-up crew. “

Helping with this event made me realize how great we have it and how privileged we are,” Choman said. “I hope other students took away that message, too.”