UNO celebrates Constitution Week including First Amendment panel


Jimmy Carroll

Several people are sitting at a table for a panel about the First Amendment.
Jeremy Lipschultz, Ph.D, introduces the members of the First Amendment panel. Photo by Kylie Squiers/the Gateway

The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) celebrated Constitution Week with events running Sept. 16-20. Commemorating the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, students celebrated the federal event by expressing their voting and free speech rights.

Sept. 17 featured “The Fight for the Right to Vote: It Still Matters” with Dr. Dianne Bystrom, director emerita of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University.

“I’m grateful we can have an event like this to show support for women voters,” Bystrom said. “It attracted a good number of people who want more knowledge on the subject.”

The League of Women Voters hosted a table in the Milo Bail Student Center and in Arts and Sciences Hall where they asked students if they were registered to vote.

“We definitely try to encourage everyone to register, to go out to the polls and vote, since it’s important in society,” said a tabler. “It’s a civic duty.”

Jeremy Lipschultz, Ph.D., hosted a First Amendment Panel on Sept. 18 to explain the importance of our basic rights as American citizens. The panel consisted of Michael Holmes, Amy Miller, Jody Neathery-Castro and Michael J. O’Hara.

Historically, the founding fathers saw the right to a free press as essential, having a marketplace of ideas to be discussed openly.

“The founding fathers saw the press as a watchdog,” said Holmes, a retired Omaha World-Herald journalist, who started off the panel with a discussion of the history of the First Amendment.

The panel discussion moved to the topic of modern-day journalism and the importance of free speech in the U.S. and the world.

“We have to constantly fight for the first amendment—it’s at the heart of everything,” said Chris Allen, Ph.D., a professor in UNO’s School of Communication.

Each of the panelists also discussed how the U.S. is a dangerous place to be a journalist, citing a 2018 report from Reporters Without Borders.

“The only way to assert the right to publish, is to publish,” Holmes said.

The First Amendment panel also included a live Twitter feed, using the hashtag #UNO1ForAll.

Students who are involved on Twitter and Instagram are eligible to compete in a social media influence competition using this hashtag. The Maverick Social Media team, led by Lipschultz, will keep track of data. The competition runs from Sept. 19 to Oct. 31. and includes cash prizes.

Lipschultz said the panel itself was “the meaning of the first amendment.”