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First Amendment Conference

Thu, April 252019-04-25|University of Central Oklahoma

Media Contact: Sarah Ward, Communications and Marketing Coordinator, UCO University Communications, 405-974-2106,

UCO to Host First Amendment Conference April 25

The University of Central Oklahoma will host a one-day First Amendment Conference from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 25 in the Mass Communication building on Central's campus. The conference will provide attendees with the opportunity to hear from national and state speakers surrounding the five freedoms guaranteed by the first amendment and debated in the U.S. - freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and to petition the government with grievances. 

UCO President Don Betz named April 25 as First Amendment Day on campus. The event also coincides with the start of the 50th year of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame. Part of the day will include inducting the 49th class into the Hall of Fame.           

Central students Erin Barnett and Trevor Stone along with Mass Communication Department Chairperson Mary Carver, Ph.D., and E.K. Gaylord Endowed Chair of Journalism Ethics Joe Hight, planned the conference. They received a $6,000 grant from nonpartisan program 1 for All to execute the event.           

“This conference will define what the First Amendment means to students on college campuses,” said Barnett.

“There will be many informative panels and speakers who are champions for it and defend it to the best of their ability.”           

Highlights include:

Teachers' First Amendment Rights, 10 a.m., Mass Communication building, Room 120: Moderated by James Machell, Ph.D., dean of the UCO College of Education and Professional Studies, panelists will discuss the rights teachers have in regards to the First Amendment. Panelists include Bob Nelson, First Amendment attorney and Angela Clark Little, Oklahoma education advocate.

First Amendment Display Dedication, 2 p.m., Mass Communication building, outside of Room 120: Speakers include President Betz, Chairperson Carver and Shelby Cargill, Miss UCO.

Freedom of the Press: Without it, is the First Amendment Doomed?, 3 p.m., Mass Communication building Room 120: The panel will focus on challenges regarding press freedom in our society. Bob Dotson, retired national TV correspondent and author, will moderate the session. Panelists include Ziva Branstetter, corporate accountability editor, The Washington Post; Mary Bishop-Baldwin, copy editor and marriage equality pioneer; M.J. Alexander, internationally known photojournalist; and Griff Palmer, database journalism pioneer, formerly of The New York Times.

Freedom of Expression on the College Campus, 4 p.m., Mass Communication building Room 120: The panel will focus on the ability of how students on college campuses are able to freely express their views and opinions safely and responsibly. Panelists include Suzette Grillot, Ph.D., professor of international and area studies at the University of Oklahoma; Joey Senat, Ph.D., freedom of information (FOI) expert and associate professor of mass communication and multimedia journalism at Oklahoma State University; Barnett; and, Stockton Duvall, former UCO Student Association (UCOSA) president. John Wood, Ph.D., Freedom of Express committee member and associate professor of political science at UCO, will moderate the session.

The First Amendment and Satire, 5 p.m., Mass Communication building Room 120: The conference will conclude with keynote speaker Rob Rogers, Pulitzer finalist and UCO alumnus. Rogers received nationwide attention when he was fired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for his satirical columns on President Trump.           

All sessions are free and open to the public.

For more information regarding the one-day conference, contact Hight at or 405-974-5924.