1st Amendment rights are topic at CCCC


News Review Staff Writer

Cerro Coso Community College will host Foundation for Individual Rights in Education speaker Ari Cohn, J.D., on Thursday, Nov. 10. Cohn, an attorney with FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) will speak about freedom of speech, religious liberty and other legal rights and his mission to defend and sustain them at America’s colleges and universities.

“FIRE’s core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them,” said CCCC History Instructor and FIRE advocate Benjamin Beshwate.

“I believe that these freedoms are essential to college campuses around America, as this is the place where the free exchange of ideas are to be encouraged the most. It is during your time in college where you are not only developing your ideas, but also where your ideas should be challenged the most. It is only through the free exchange of dialog that people learn.”

While many perceive institutions of higher learning as already being bastions of individual rights, Beshwate said that is something that is “eroding in today’s higher education environment.”

“Many of these details are explained in the book written by the president of FIRE, Greg Lukianoff, called ‘Unlearning Liberty,’” said Beshwate, who uses the book in his American Government classes.

“Many students are unaware that their rights are being violated, which is why the author takes the reader from high school to the day they graduate from college to explain how each step of the way the students are having opinions forced on them, many time without even knowing it.”

Beshwate said that issues such as limited “free speech zones” and the lack of due process in disciplinary situations are just a few of the challenges students face in today’s learning environment.

Cohn’s presentation is open to the public, and an online stream of the lecture will be available online to CCCC students and faculty.

Cohn earned his law degree from Cornell Law School and studied political science and sociology. A native of Skokie, Ill., he cultivated a profound respect for the First Amendment at a young age after studying the famous and controversial National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie case.

“Put simply, students, faculty and members of the community can expect to learn what their rights are when it comes to the atmosphere of higher education,” said Beshwate. “This is important for current college students and faculty, but also very important for high school students who plan to head off to college next fall. While it is important for everybody to know their rights, it is especially important in higher education because this is where the free exchange of ideas matters the most.”

The presentation begins at 7 p.m. in the CCCC Learning Resource Center. For more information, visit www.cerrocoso.edu.

Story First Published: 2016-11-04