MTSU James Union Building closed for repairs

The James Union Building at MTSU is closed for repairs after a flash-flooding incident over the weekend damaged electrical equipment in the mechanical room of the building’s basement.

Facilities personnel found the basement flooded when responding to a fire alarm early Saturday. The flooding appears to have been caused by heavy rainfall and a damaged hot water tank in the basement.

The building will be closed at least through Sunday, July 27, and perhaps longer as facilities personnel get a full assessment of damages this week, officials said.

Clean-up and repairs are ongoing in the basement of the James Union Building, which will be closed all week after flash flooding damaged electrical equipment in the buildings mechanical room over the weekend. (MTSU photo by News and Media Relations)

Clean-up and repairs are ongoing in the basement of the James Union Building, which will be closed all week after flash flooding damaged electrical equipment in the buildings mechanical room over the weekend. (MTSU photo by News and Media Relations)

Classes held in the JUB have been moved temporarily to Peck Hall, as have some university staff and offices housed in the building.

Tuesday’s scheduled CUSTOMS check-in, usually held in the JUB, will now take place on the first floor of the Student Union. CUSTOMS is MTSU’s summer orientation program for new students, freshmen and transfers.

The Campus ID office has been temporarily relocated to the MTOneStop in the Student Services and Admissions Center. All ID cards can be created and printed there until the JUB reopens, according to the Information Technology Division.

Updates will follow as more information becomes available.

The James Union Building houses a wide variety of offices and facilities including the Scheduling Center, RaiderZone Restaurant, the Faculty Senate Office, Student ID Office, the Philosophy Department, the Women’s Studies Department, classrooms and academic offices.

The roughly 52,000-square-foot facility opened in 1952 as MTSU’s first student union and has remained in constant use since for campus and community special events as well as classes and other day-to-day operations. It was named for Clayton L. James, a longtime social science professor and MTSU’s first dean of students.

Seigenthaler’s ‘unparalled leadership’ inspired MTSU (+VIDEOS)

Journalism icon John Seigenthaler, a First Amendment champion, civil rights advocate and devoted friend of Middle Tennessee State University, died July 11 at the age of 86.

Seigenthaler, who lent his name and his prodigious talents to the Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at MTSU, passed away at his Nashville home with his family at his side, according to his son, fellow journalist John Michael Seigenthaler.

In 1986, MTSU established the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies to honor Seigenthaler’s lifelong commitment to free expression.

John Seigenthaler, right, listens to a question from the audience with his son, John Michael Seigenthaler, during a September 2011 conversation, “Living the First Amendment,” at MTSU. The elder Seigenthaler passed away Friday at his home in Nashville. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

The Seigenthaler Chair, housed in the College of Mass Communication, supports a variety of activities related to free speech, free press rights and other topics of concern for contemporary journalism, including distinguished visiting professors and visiting lecturers at MTSU, research related to free expression, and seminars and meetings dedicated to expressive freedom.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, who is in China on an international educational excursion with a group of Rutherford County youngsters, their parents and MTSU representatives, expressed his grief at Seigenthaler’s death and his gratitude for Seigenthaler’s service to the university, the state and the nation.

“John Seigenthaler’s impact upon our university was profound, meaningful and enduring,” said McPhee. “His friendship and counsel has been invaluable to me as president, both professionally and personally, and I know I speak for the entire university community in expressing our deep sorrow on his passing.

“John’s unparalleled leadership as a journalist and an advocate of the First Amendment was an inspiration to our students and faculty. His deep and prolonged involvement at our university helped build and propel our College of Mass Communication in scholarship and service. He was a fixture on our campus.

“Elizabeth (McPhee) and I are heartbroken by this loss and send our deepest condolences to John’s wife, Dolores, and the entire family. John was a dear friend and will be missed.”

Ken Paulson

Dr. Sidney A. McPhee

Seigenthaler was a reporter, editor, publisher and CEO of The Tennessean as well as an administrative assistant for then-U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. After serving as founding editorial director for USA Today, he established the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in 1991.

Ken Paulson, dean of the College of Mass Communication and a longtime friend of Seigenthaler’s through their work together at USA Today and the First Amendment Center, called the elder journalist a “truly special man.”

“John was one of those rare people who was even better than his great reputation,” said Paulson, who also serves as president of the First Amendment Center.

“A man of great integrity, passion and compassion, his commitment to the First Amendment and journalism was unflagging. He loved this university and its students and would do anything he could to help. We’ve lost a very good man.”

Seigenthaler and his family created and supported the MTSU journalism scholarship that bears his name in the College of Mass Communication, and he has served since 2005 as the chair of the college’s Board of Professional Advisors.

The School of Journalism at MTSU launched the Seigenthaler News Service in 2012, a unique program for outstanding young journalists that lets them work full-time as reporters covering activities in U.S. District Courts and other federal law enforcement operations at the Federal Court House in Nashville.

Seigenthaler also was inducted in April 2013 as a member of the inaugural class of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is housed at MTSU’s John Bragg Mass Communication Building inside the Center for Innovation in Media.

John Seigenthaler, second from right, smiles as MTSU alumnus and former reporter Keel Hunt, right, makes a point during the April 17 Windham Lecture Series discussion of Hunt’s book on the 1979 bipartisan ouster of Tennessee’s governor. Joining the pair are U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, left, and former U.S. attorney Hal Hardin. (MTSU file photo by J. Intintoli)

The list of people who served as chairholder for the Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence at MTSU reads like a Who’s Who of media and includes Wallace Westfeldt, former producer for NBC and ABC News; Bill Kovach, former editor of The New York Times and curator of the Nieman Fellowships at Harvard; Tom Wicker, former columnist for The New York Times; John Henry Faulk, humorist and popular CBS radio personality blacklisted during the Red Scare and a hero of free expression rights; Jim Squires, former editor of The Chicago Tribune; author and journalist Wallace Terry; television journalist Sander Vanocur; former U.S. News & World Report Washington bureau chief John Mashek; and Seigenthaler himself.

Three current MTSU professors also have helmed the Seigenthaler Chair: Chris Clark, one of the longest-tenured TV anchors in American history with 41 years at WTVF-TV, whose advocacy for public information access led the Tennessee Supreme Court to allow TV cameras in the state’s courtrooms; Beverly Keel, entertainment journalist and music industry executive who now leads MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry; and Wendell “Sonny” Rawls, Pulitzer Prize winner for investigative reporting at the Philadelphia Inquirer and a former director of the Center for Public Integrity’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Seigenthaler was part of an April 17 Windham Lecture Series event at MTSU that featured one of his former reporters at the Tennessean, MTSU alumnus Keel Hunt, along with Tennessee’s senior U.S. senator, Lamar Alexander, and former U.S. Attorney Hal Hardin for an in-depth discussion of the unprecedented 1979 bipartisan ouster of a corrupt governor.

Hunt interviewed the trio for his book “Coup: The Day the Democrats Ousted Their Governor, Put Republican Lamar Alexander in Office Early, and Stopped a Pardon Scandal.”

“The days and weeks prior to this, all of the media in Tennessee was telling the story, either in print or in broadcast, the story of the scandal,” said Seigenthaler that night. He wrote the forward to Hunt’s book and was editor in chief of The Tennessean at the time of Gov. Ray Blanton’s ouster.

“There were very few people in the state at the time who didn’t understand that this scandal, this crisis, was on us,” said Seigenthaler.

You can read The Tennessean’s more extensive story on Seigenthaler’s career and contributions here. The cover story of the Nashville Scene also offers a personal perspective from a former competitor. Paulson also provided a commentary for USA Today, which you can read here.

You can watch a video of John and John Michael Seigenthaler, a former weekend anchor for NBC News in New York who now anchors Al Jazeera America’s prime-time news program, from their September 2011 “Living the First Amendment” conversation at MTSU below.



A video from the Windham Lecture Series event in April is available below.



Visitation with John Seigenthaler’s family and friends is set from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the First Amendment Center on the Vanderbilt University campus, located at 1207 18th Ave. S. in Nashville. Funeral services will be conducted at 10 a.m. Monday at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, 2015 West End Ave.

Learn more about MTSU’s John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at www.mtsu.edu/masscomm/chair_mc.php.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)

Confucius Institute builds ‘bridge’ for Tennessee teens

While school is still out for millions of Tennessee youngsters, learning continues for 11 fortunate youths July 7-22 under the auspices of MTSU’s Confucius Institute.

The students will attend the fourth annual 2014 Chinese Bridge Summer Camp organized by the Confucius Institute, which will take them to Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou in the People’s Republic of China.

Confucius Institute logoRui Qian, a Chinese language instructor at the MTSU institute, will chaperone the youngsters through a schedule of educational, cultural and entertainment experiences.

“They will attend classes, but not all day because they are young students and we want them to experience the local life,” Qian said.

Chinese language classes are part of the agenda, but kung fu classes are also offered, as are optional cultural classes such as calligraphy and painting.

Qian said the Great Wall of China and trips to some of the country’s oldest villages are also on tap.

An exchange with students from a high school in Hangzhou is slated as well as a visit to Hangzhou Normal University, with which MTSU has an educational partnership. Language, cultural and other educational programs are provided by Hangzhou Normal University.

“This is a beautiful opportunity and a dream come true,” said Shaunna Barbee, mother of camper Antonio H. Barbee of Nashville, Tennessee. “Antonio has always loved Asian culture, and he’s a rising black belt in karate.”

The students applied for the limited number of positions by submitting academic transcripts and recommendation letters from teachers to the MTSU institute. Admission is based on academic performance, interest in Chinese language and culture.

Students are responsible for their round-trip transportation to China, a processing fee and a visa fee. The Confucius Institute covers all expenses in China, including transportation, excursions, and room and board.

Attending this year’s camp are:

  • Antonio H. Barbee, in transition from Jordan High School, Durham, N.C., recently moved to Nashville, Tennessee;
  • Benjamin Z. Bess and Glenn E. Scrivens II, Oakland High School, Murfreesboro, Tennessee;
  • Leslie Hennings, Siegel High School, Murfreesboro, Tennessee;
  • Adrian Daniel Spencer-Smith, Brentwood High School, Brentwood, Tennessee;
  • Zoe Walker, Stewarts Creek High School, Smyrna, Tennessee;
  • Hong Colleen Feng, Farragut Middle School, Farragut, Tennessee;
  • Eric Wang and Amber Diaz, Farragut High School, Farragut, Tennessee;
  • Rockell Hicks, Alvin York Institute, Jamestown, Tennessee;
  • Kennady Allese Peek, The Webb School, Bell Buckle, Tennessee.

The mission of the Confucius Institute at MTSU is to enhance the understanding of Chinese language and culture, facilitate engagement with China and create opportunities for exchange and collaboration between communities in Tennessee and China.

For more information, go to www.mtsu.edu/cimtsu or call 615-494-8696.

– Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)



MTSU Student Farmers Market resumes July 11

Sales at the weekly MTSU Student Farmers Market will resume Friday, July 11, from noon to 2 p.m. with fresh farm-raised produce plus delicious honey from the hard-working bees of the MTSU Farm — all perfect for a tasty summer meal.

Potatoes and carrots will be among the vegetables for sale at the MTSU Student Farmers Market Friday, July 11, at the Horticulture Center on Lightning Way. (MTSU file photo by News and Media Relations)

Potatoes and carrots will be among the vegetables for sale at the MTSU Student Farmers Market Friday, July 11, at the Horticulture Center on Lightning Way. (MTSU file photo by News and Media Relations)

The market, which is open to the public, is held at the Horticulture Center on Lightning Way across from the Tennessee Livestock Center.

Because of nearby road construction, however, shoppers should use Rutherford Boulevard to enter the east side of campus at MTSU Boulevard, following it past the Student Union to the entrance of the Cummings Parking Lot on the right across from Cummings Hall.

The Horticulture Center is located at the north side of the parking lot. Signs will be posted to direct shoppers around the building to its front entrance for the farmers market.

A printable campus map can be found at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap13-14.

new MT Agriculture logo

Produce available for customers will include tomatoes, beans, onions, kale, mustard greens, peas, potatoes, garlic, kohlrabi, yellow squash, basil and carrots. Some native perennials and shrubs also will be available.

On sale days, all the produce is harvested fresh each Friday morning before market time.

Accepted forms of payment are cash and checks made payable to MTSU. No debit or credit cards can be accepted.

The produce is grown and harvested by students, faculty and staff at the university’s Experiential Learning and Research Center, also known as the MTSU Farm and Dairy, located at 3001 to 3211 Guy James Road in Lascassas, Tennessee.

The MTSU Student Farmers Market will be open each Friday through early fall.

For more information about the market, call the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience at 615-898-2523 or Dr. Nate Phillips, associate professor of agribusiness and agriscience, at 615-494-8996.

MTSU tests campus tornado sirens Wednesday morning

MTSU plans to conduct a routine monthly test of its tornado sirens on campus this Wednesday, July 9, at 11:15 a.m.

This will be a brief, routine test of the system, and no safety actions will be required.

The university notifies the campus and surrounding neighborhoods before these tests each month. Tests are conducted on alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays to minimize distractions for classes and neighbors.

Members of the campus community can prepare for emergency weather situations anytime by checking MTSU’s list of “safe places” at http://bit.ly/MTSUSafePlaces. You also can make note of the siren-testing schedule by visiting www.mtsunews.com/tornado-siren-testing. Bookmark both sites!

Remember that, in the event of a weather emergency, all students, faculty and staff automatically receive a Rave alert at their MTSU email addresses. If you’re not already receiving text and/or voice alerts too, visit www.mtsunews.com/weather and use the “click here and log in” link to make those notification changes.

New MTSU-city indoor tennis facility at Old Fort moves forward

Progress continues on a new indoor tennis facility at Old Fort Park that will partner MTSU with the City of Murfreesboro in expanding local recreational amenities while enhancing MTSU’s tennis program.

City Parks and Recreation Department Director Lanny Goodwin presented the Parks and Recreation Commission with an update Tuesday, July 2, on the facility, including renderings of what the facility will look like when completed in early 2015.

This artist rendering shows the main entrance to the new indoor tennis facility at Old Fort Park in Murfreesboro. MTSU tennis teams will use the facility when it opens in early 2015. (Courtesy of the City of Murfreesboro)

This artist rendering shows the main entrance to the new indoor tennis facility at Old Fort Park in Murfreesboro. MTSU tennis teams will use the facility when it opens in early 2015. (Courtesy of the City of Murfreesboro)

Goodwin also advised that the City Council approved a construction contract and partnership agreement with MTSU on June 26, according to a city news release.

Ground was broken on the facility in October 2013. The partnership between the university and the city means that for the first time since 2008, the Blue Raider tennis teams will have an indoor facility in Murfreesboro. Currently, the teams play at Nashboro Village, located nearly 30 miles northwest of campus in Nashville.

“We certainly hope the MTSU tennis teams will be able to practice in the new facility in January when construction should be substantially completed,” Goodwin said. “Players should be able to use the courts even though final punch out won’t be until Jan. 30, 2015, with an official opening sometime in mid-February if everything goes as planned.”

The city is partnering with MTSU and the Christy Houston Foundation on the new $5.8 million facility at Old Fort Park adjacent to the 16-court outdoor complex. The city will remove the existing 11,000-square-foot Ag Center and construct a 70,000-square-foot indoor tennis facility with eight courts and support facilities.

In this October 2013 file  photo, MTSU, City of Murfreesboro officials and community supporters attended a groundbreaking ceremony of the indoor MTSU/Murfreesboro city tennis facility at Old Fort Park. (MTSU file photo by J. Intintoli)

In this October 2013 file photo, MTSU, City of Murfreesboro officials and community supporters attended a groundbreaking ceremony of the indoor MTSU/Murfreesboro city tennis facility at Old Fort Park. (MTSU file photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU will have priority usage from 1 to 4 p.m., with the Murfreesboro community having access during evening hours.

Goodwin told the commission that fees for community usage are still being ironed out with a proposed business plan for the complex, which will be presented to commissioners at a future meeting. At its June 26 meeting, the Murfreesboro City Council approved bids for construction on the project to be provided by Hardcastle Construction Inc. and for Lose & Associates, Inc. to provide architecture and site planning.

An aerial view rendition provided by Lose & Associates of the new tennis complex shows how the new facility will connect to the older outdoor courts and additional parking. Another rendition shows a drive-in view of the complex. The facility will have two floors with a mezzanine for spectator viewing that will include bleachers, tables and chairs. An awning will extend from the new facility toward the outdoor tennis courts to provide shading for special events.

“We want to express our deep appreciation to MTSU for agreeing to provide $1.7 million to the project,” added Goodwin. “We could not have been able to move forward on this worthwhile community endeavor without MTSU’s support.”

The tennis project is part of the university’s $80 million Centennial Campaign announced in April 2012.

This artist rendering shows the aerial view of the new indoor tennis facility at Old Fort Park in Murfreesboro.

This artist rendering shows the aerial view of the new indoor tennis facility at Old Fort Park in Murfreesboro.

James takes helm of Leadership Middle Tennessee program

Patricia “Patti” James brings her extensive management background to the helm of Leadership Middle Tennessee as the new executive director of the regional leadership program.

Patricia "Patti" James

Patricia “Patti” James

A search committee made up of Leadership Middle Tennessee board members selected James, who began her new role in May. She replaces longtime director Susan Taylor, who is retiring after 14 years at the helm of the nonprofit operated through the Jones College of Business at MTSU.

LMT-logo“Patti is a proven, flexible leader,” stated Seab Tuck, chairman of the Leadership Middle Tennessee board, in an LMT release. “We are excited to welcome her to the new role.”

James brings 30 years of corporate experience across both the human resources and shared services sectors. She recently retired from Bridgestone Americas Inc., where she spent the past 21 years as vice president of human resources and administration and later as vice president of the shared services division.

As a 2006 graduate of Leadership Middle Tennessee, and a former board member, she understands the importance of regional leadership. James holds an MBA. in human resources management from The Ohio State University as well as a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Currently she serves on the board of directors for the YWCA, Mentor-WOMEN Unlimited and Entrepreneur Center.

Dr. David Urban

Dr. David Urban

“Patti understands the importance of helping businesses, government and nonprofits work together to strengthen our region,” said David Urban, dean of the Jones College.

Urban lauded Taylor’s efforts for building LMT’s foundation as its inaugural executive director.

“We commend Susan for her tireless efforts in establishing LMT as a premier leadership development program,” Urban said. “I know that, as an alumni member, she will be still be available to provide invaluable input for LMT in the future.”WordmarkJonesCollege

James is the past president of Nashville Industry Liaison Group and has served on several other nonprofit boards in the past such as the Nashville Opera, Junior Achievement, Workforce Employers Outreach Council, State Workforce Development Board, Tennessee Hospital Association and Happy Tales Humane.

Leadership Middle Tennessee was founded to engage community, nonprofit, government and business leaders in the 10-county region of Middle Tennessee to focus on regional issues.

Participating counties are Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Maury, Montgomery, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties. LMT is overseen by a regional board comprising alumni, business and community leaders.

Visit www.leadmt.org for more information.

— Jimmy Hart (jimmy.hart@mtsu.edu)

MTSU main computer lab getting summer facelift for students

When MTSU students return to campus this fall, they’ll find the Jones College of Business University Computer Lab upgraded considerably, complete with revised operating hours to better serve the campus.

Located in the Business and Aerospace Building, the university’s main computer lab is closed this summer for a renovation project that began last month. Work is expected to be completed by the start of fall semester classes Aug. 25.

Carlos Coronel, director of the Jones College of Business University Computer Lab, is shown inside the lab before renovations began last month. The lab is closed this summer for renovations and will reopen by fall semester. (MTSU photos by News and Media Relations)

Carlos Coronel, director of the Jones College of Business University Computer Lab, is shown inside the lab before renovations began last month. The lab is closed this summer for renovations and will reopen by the fall semester. (MTSU photos by News and Media Relations)

PrintThe expanded 6,361-square-foot lab will bring an increased focus on student convenience and customer service, an open work-centered environment, comfortable notebook-friendly lounge furniture, additional team study rooms, wireless printing, mobile/laptop charging stations and 40 new computers.

The $288,000 renovation also includes a new student ID access system and computers networked to MTSU’s new print management system, which allows remote printing from mobile devices.

“We’re going to make it more student friendly,” said Carlos Coronel, director of the lab. “The furniture will be more comfortable for the students. We are replacing all of the seating in the entire lab and also putting in new flooring.”

A temporary lab has been set up in BAS S302 with 26 computers for student use. The temporary lab is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday this summer, unlike the previous lab’s 24/7 schedule.

Carlos Coronel, director of the Jones College of Business University Computer Lab, explains the lab renovation plan before work began last month.

Carlos Coronel, director of the Jones College of Business University Computer Lab, explains the lab renovation plan before work began last month.

When the lab reopens in the fall, weekend operating hours will be changed to close the lab at 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Coronel said the change in weekend hours better reflects student use of the lab.

The renovations will reconfigure some of the rows of computers currently in place into two new group study rooms that will allow students to collaborate more, as well as bring in their own laptops, tablets and/or other mobile devices to use. The new computer stations also will allow more workspace.

Shannon Scott, a senior public relations major from Murfreesboro, works in the lab as an assistant, answering software questions, restocking printers and helping students with a variety of computer questions.

“I think it’s going to improve accessibility and the overall look of the lab, and really, just everyone’s overall attitude,” she said of the renovations. “Your environment is everything. MTSU has definitely been upgrading with the new science building, the new parking garages coming on line and things of that nature.

“I’ve mentioned the renovations to a few of the students, and you can just see the excitement on their faces. People like ‘new.’”

During the renovations, the main lab offices are temporarily located in the BAS SunTrust Room, Room N217, on the first floor of the north lobby.

For more information about the lab, visit www.mtsu.edu/businesslab.

— Jimmy Hart (jimmy.hart@mtsu.edu)

In this May 2014 photo, MTSU students work inside the Jones College of Business University Computer Lab. The lab is closed this summer for renovations and will reopen by fall semester.

In this May 2014 photo, MTSU students work inside the Jones College of Business University Computer Lab. The lab is closed this summer for renovations and will reopen by fall semester.

MTSU closes July 4 for Independence Day observance

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July holiday weekend.

MTSU will be closed Friday, July 4, in observance of Independence Day. All business offices will be closed and no classes will be held that day and also Saturday, July 5.

Offices will reopen at 8 a.m. and all summer session classes will resume at their normal times Monday, July 7.

The Student Union will be open from noon to 6 p.m. July 4-6. Until classes resume for the 2014-15 academic year in August, Student Union hours of operation will be from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 8 p.m. on weekends.

For ARAMARK/MT Dining venues’ summer hours of operation, visit http://www.campusdish.com/en-US/CSS/MiddleTennessee/Locations/.

The James E. Walker Library will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 5. For its summer hours of operation, visit http://library.mtsu.edu/hours.php.

The Campus Recreation Center will be closed July 4-6, reopening at 6:30 a.m. July 7. For its summer hours, visit http://www.mtsu.edu/camprec/springhours.php.

The Student Farmers Market in the Horticulture Center on Lightning Way will be closed July 4. It will resume sales of agricultural products from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, July 11.



Survey says many citizens still unfamiliar with First Amendment rights

A new national survey by the Nashville-based First Amendment Center indicates that nearly a third of Americans still can’t name one of the five freedoms — speech, religion, press, assembly and petitioning the government — guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Ken Paulson, dean of MTSU’s College of Mass Communication and president of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center, said it’s “disheartening” to see a continuing lack of knowledge among citizens about their most basic rights.

Twenty-nine percent of the 1,006 adults surveyed in May by phone in the contiguous 48 states for “The State of the First Amendment: 2014” couldn’t think of a single one of their First Amendment rights. That figure is down from 36 percent in 2013, however.

Constitution illus webWhen asked to name the five specific freedoms in the First Amendment, 68 percent of Americans could name freedom of speech, followed by 29 percent who said freedom of religion. Fourteen percent mentioned the freedom of the press, 7 percent mentioned the right to assemble, and 1 percent named the right to petition the government.

Ken Paulson

Ken Paulson

“We’ve asked Americans every year whether they could name their core freedoms, and we were optimistic that we had turned a corner on awareness in recent years because of some of the perhaps lesser-known freedoms, including the right to assembly, were showing up more in their responses,” Paulson said. “We thought that might be because of reports on the Occupy movement.”

Prior years’ reports showed as many as 14 percent of the people surveyed were aware of their right to gather peaceably in public places, but the figure abruptly dipped from 11 percent in 2013 to 7 percent this year.

“It’s disheartening that in a nation founded on freedom that so few know them,” Paulson said.

He added, however, that he’s hopeful that awareness in specific areas is growing.

“What’s most encouraging about this year’s survey is the growing support for free speech rights for young people,” the dean said. “We’ve seen a number of high-profile cases in which students were punished for comments they’d made outside of school in social media.

First Amendment Center logo web“The courts have been split in their decisions, but more Americans are obviously seeing young people as what they truly are: citizens, with the same rights as adults.”

Paulson also said he is encouraged by the people who see the media in a watchdog role for the government, regardless of political affiliation.

“Regardless of whether you’re in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party or the Tea Party, these people realized that you have a strong vested interest in knowing what your government is doing,” he noted.

The results of “The State of the First Amendment: 2014” were announced this week during the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism conference in Washington, D.C. The survey has an error rate of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

The 2014 survey also discussed current First Amendment-related news, including whether the government can require religious groups to provide health care to same-sex partners and whether wedding businesses must serve same-sex couples.

You can find a printable, searchable copy of the 2014 survey, as well as previous surveys, at the First Amendment Center’s website at http://ow.ly/yxrjZ.

You can learn more about the First Amendment and your rights — and responsibilities — as a citizen at www.firstamendmentcenter.org/about-the-first-amendment. Learn more about MTSU’s College of Mass Communication at www.mtsu.edu/masscomm.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)