Small talk echoes about you as newly minted business cards pass from person to person, as if by way of slight of hand tricks. You look for a familiar face, but find yourself lost in a sea of well-tailored suits and little black dresses. Forced laughter bounces from wall to wall. Your heart beats faster, hands holding on more tightly to that brand new briefcase. You anxiously walk to the bar for some water, avoiding eye contact while secretly hoping someone notices that one statement necklace you so carefully selected with the hope that someone would notice you and start the conversation so that you would not have to approach them first: welcome to your first networking event.
Okay, that may have been a bit over-dramatic. Today, I love networking events, especially as a student. I was not always so fond of waltzing up to strangers and introducing myself though, and the situation I described above is pretty much a play-by-play of how my first networking event went. It was awkward. I stuck to the corners, had a few meaningless conversations, and left feeling defeated.
How did I go from discouraged by networking to energized by the very thought of it? I changed my mindset. When I went to my first networking event, I saw it as a chance to get ahead, to make my impression on someone important and leave feeling good about myself. It wasn't until after I had left that event that I realized how such a perspective was preventing me from doing just that.
Networking is a term that tends to dehumanize your interactions with other people at events. I only started to enjoy networking when I thought about what "networking" really means: building meaningful connections with other people. By meaningful, I don't mean important to succeeding in your career aspirations or to building resume. I am talking about building meaningful human connections to other people, beginning to build a relationship with them because you are generally interested in who they are and what they do rather than how they can benefit you. Start with that mindset, follow these eleven tips, and I promise that your first networking experience will be more enjoyable than mine.
Figuring out Free Speech
The First Amendment: you hear the term tossed around constantly. You hear it as a defense for a controversial tweet, as the basis of a Supreme Court decision, or around your college campus when controversial speakers are invited. What really is the First Amendment thought, from a legal standpoint, and what liberties does it guarantee? The answer is more complicated than it seems.
Let's start with the basics. The First Amendment full text reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." There are five specific rights guaranteed in Amendment I: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition.
Freedom of religion, though it has been debated and interpreted differently for centuries, is the most self-explanatory aspect of the First Amendment. Amendment I makes two guarantees regarding freedom of religion: that no laws will be passed to establish a national religion, and that no one will be prohibited from practicing their religion freely. Freedom of the press ensures that the government will not interfere with any individual or group's ability to publish what they see fit. Freedom of assembly guarantees people the right to assemble and take action as groups, while freedom to petition the government protects the right of the people to criticize the government without fear of punishment. While freedom of speech seems to be the most self-explanatory First Amendment right of all, it is one of the most nuanced and complex topics in American legal history. Each of these aspects of Amendment I are far more nuanced than I have portrayed them above, and each will be covered in a later blog post. This post, however, will focus on freedom of speech, and discuss its limitations in American society today.
What does freedom of speech mean?
Freedom of speech is a term that is often used lightly without a solid definition. At its most broad definition, freedom of speech as enumerated in the First Amendment prohibits the government from infringing on or banning speech because it disagrees with the content being expressed.
Over the past several centuries though, the term "free speech" has become more complex.Freedom of speech has come to include the right not to speak (West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette), the right to advertise (Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council), and the right to contribute to political campaigns (Bucky v. Valeo). The term speech itself has been complicated by decisions like that in Texas v. Johnson, which ruled that burning a flag constitutes a form of "symbolic speech" that is protected by Amendment I, and that of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled that the spending of money is constitutionally protected speech that cannot be restricted by the government.
Freedom of speech, thought it has become more complex over the centuries since it was enumerated in the United States Constitution, still generally refers to the natural right of an individual to speak freely without fear or threat of censorship by the government or any government institution.
What kind of speech is not protected by Amendment I?
The United States guarantees more freedom of speech than anywhere else in the world, but there are certain forms of speech that are not protected by Amendment I or other speech law. These include:
One of the most important things to remember about the First Amendment is that it lays out the rules that govern free speech in the public domain. There are a slew of other speech issues that come with speech when it is moved into the private sector.
How are the rules different for speech in the private sector?
It is important to keep in mind that the First Amendment protects freedom of speech from infringement by the government; Amendment I does not prohibit private entities from violating individual freedoms. As such, freedom of speech is not a legally held right in private workplaces or universities. Though there are laws to protect employees from discrimination, there is no constitutionally protected freedom of speech in the workplace. Public sector employees enjoy the right to free speech in the workplace, although employers may restrict free speech in order to ensure a functional workplace.
Universities follow a similar structure. Any censorship of protected speech at a public university constitutes government censorship, and it is thus forbidden. Private universities, however, reserve the right to craft any kind of speech restrictions they see fit. Throughout American history, private universities prided themselves on holding higher education to a standard of free expression even higher than that which is guaranteed in the Constitution. This culture has shifted over the course of the past decade though, as students continue to demand more restrictive speech codes in the name of protesting harassment and discrimination. A later article will consider why such speech codes are counterproductive.
Why should I care?
Freedom of speech is one of the attributes that makes the United States a strong nation. It allows democracy to flourish, constructive disagreement to occur, and the nation to progress. Knowing your rights is imperative to ensuring that freedom of speech is both protected and properly utilized. As this blog continues, we will cover issues such as internet speech, the value of constructive disagreement, and how freedom of speech contributes to American democracy. Until then, we encourage you to leave your comments below! Are there any free speech basics we missed? Are there specific codes and legal decisions with which you disagree? Let us know, and contribute your voice to our conversation. After all, freedom of speech is meaningless unless we utilize it.
The first week of college is a beautiful, messy whirlwind that you will never forget. In many ways, it sets the tone for the rest of your semester. Nonetheless, it can be stressful. You are living away from home, getting what feels like a hundred syllabuses for your new classes, trying to make friends, finding your way around campus, and so much more. It is easy to get caught up and overwhelmed in all of the excitement, but it is important to stay grounded and start your semester off right. Here are eight tips to help you remain calm, cool, and collected in your first week of school.
Welcome to the Foster Russell Family Foundation blog! Since you are here, you probably know a bit about the FRFF. If not, our mission statement is "Inspiring free speech, social change and empowerment through education and mentorship." We believe that integrity, inclusion, and focus on our shared humanity are the keys to unlocking the totality of human potential. To promote these beliefs, we have created numerous educational programs to take to schools and businesses across the country that promote exercising free speech, encouraging inclusion, and building meaningful connections. Our founder, Karith Foster, is an author, speaker, and humorist who brings these programs across the country with the hopes of producing communities that are more thoughtful and inclusive. You may be wondering how this blog fits into our mission.
We created this blog because we want to connect with students across the country, regardless of whether Karith has come to your campus. We want to create an online community that mimics the values we seek to create in society: integrity, inclusion, and a focus on our humanity.
This blog will cover topics such as free speech, inclusion, and stereotyping, but it will also deal with everyday issues facing college students, such as how to handle your first networking event or deal with homesickness. We hope that in using this blog, we can start genuine conversations about philosophical and social issues, but we also hope to use this site as a platform to help one another succeed in everyday life. It is our hope that by helping one another, we learn to care about each other more deeply to create a stronger, more inclusive online community.
We cannot, however, build this online community without you. We want this blog to be a group effort. Please share your comments on each of our posts, and share honestly. Tell us what you like, what you dislike, and how we can be better. Create respectful dialogues with one another in the comments section. Your voice is essential to this community. It matters, and we want you to share your voice openly in this space.
So welcome to our blog! We hope that you will continue to check our page and engage in our conversation.