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CWU First Amendment Festival Takes Up Hate Speech, Russia-Gate April 20-27

Event Posters

The Central Washington University First Amendment Festival returns this year to celebrate the five freedoms of the First Amendment and to inform students, faculty, and community members on how they can use their rights.

From April 20-27, there will be eight events spanning from lectures addressing hate speech and the ongoing Russian-U.S. misinformation war, to a showcase for CWU’s top spoken word artists and a simulation where students can see what it is like to be stripped of their First Amendment freedoms.

“Now more than ever, it’s important that students and citizens embrace these fundamental freedoms, which are the cornerstone of our democracy,” said festival organizer Cynthia Mitchell, an associate professor who runs the digital journalism program at CWU and advises the student newspaper, The Observer.

“From Charlottesville to the University of Washington, hate speech and violent reactions to it have made headlines. I don’t think it matters where you stand on the political spectrum, the First Amendment is something we can all agree on and celebrate.”

Ari CohnKeynoting the event on Tuesday, April 24, will be Ari Cohn, of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). He will argue protecting hate speech – no matter how repugnant – is important. Cohn will also provide tools for how students and citizens can object to speech they don’t like without resorting to censorship.

This year’s festival is supported by the following CWU sponsors: Social Justice & Human Rights Dialogues, College of Education and Professional Studies, Douglas Honors College, Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, The Diversity and Equity Center, the Associated Students of CWU, Campus Activities, and the departments of communication, history and world languages.

Below is the complete event listing:

Daily: Free Speech Walls
Make Your Own Protest Sign, SURC West Patio
First Amendment Poster Gallery - Exhibit by CWU professor David Bieloh’s graphic design students.

Friday, April 20
Tools for Activism
3-5 p.m., SURC 137
Learn how to harness the power of online and social media to tell stories that change minds – using nothing but your phone! Workshop presenter, Gretchen Macchiarella, publisher of Cal State Northridge’s The Sundial and former managing editor/digital for the Ventura County Star. Space is limited. RSVP to Please bring a smart phone.

Monday, April 23
“THE POST” - Monday Movie Madness
SURC Theater, 7 p.m.
The Importance of Investigative Reporting in the Fake News Era
Panel discussion following the movie, featuring Kate Martin, investigative reporter for The (Tacoma) News Tribune, Craig Troianello, city editor of the Yakima Herald-Republic, and Joanna Markell, editor of the Daily Record.

Tuesday, April 24
Freedom for the Speech We Hate
Hertz Hall, 5:30-7 p.m.
From Charlottesville to the UW, hate speech has been in the news. Ari Cohn, Foundation for Individual Rights (FIRE) argues that hate speech needs protection. He’ll offer tactics for how students can respond to hate speech without resorting to censorship.

Wednesday, April 25
The First Amendment Out Loud
7-9 p.m., SURC PIT
Come hear CWU’s best spoken word artists celebrate our five freedoms. Cash prizes for the top artists. Hosted by CWU poetry professor Xavier Cavazos.

Thursday, April 26
The War for Minds: Russian & American Propaganda Then & Now
12-1 p.m., SURC Theatre
Rising tension between Russia and the U.S. has been labeled a "Cold War 2.0." CWU professors Daniel Herman (history) and Volha Isakava (Russian studies) will trace the historic arc that has led to “fake news.” How have today’s media “echo chambers” changed the way we see and consume information?

Cyberhacking:  From the DNC to the PRC
5:30-7 p.m., Museum of Culture & Environment (Dean Hall)
Jeffrey Carr, a cybersecurity expert and author of Inside Cyber Warfare: Mapping the Cyber Underworld, discusses his doubts about Russian hacks into the 2016 presidential election, and how hard it is to trace hacks, whether they’re into the Democratic National Committee or by the Chinese.

First Amendment Open Mic
8-10 p.m., SURC PIT
Cash prizes for the top artists performing with a First Amendment theme.

Friday, April 27
Food for Thought
11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., SURC East Patio
Sign away your First Amendment rights for a free pizza in the Republic of CWU – and see what happens.

Media contact: Dawn Alford, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1484,

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