2012 Prometheus Society 1st Place: Bryant Jackson-Green
Bryant Jackson-Green is a rising fourth-year student at the University of Chicago majoring in interdisciplinary studies in the humanities and political science. On campus, Bryant is president of the Students for a Free Society group and serves on the editorial board of the Midway Review, a student-run journal of politics and culture.
Soon after he began college, Bryant heard about FIRE through our case at IUPUI, where student Keith John Sampson was punished for reading a book. He says that this “egregious abuse” of student rights inspired him to challenge the speech codes at his own school. Bryant writes:
I was concerned when my school fell from a yellow light to a red light rating, but I hoped that our university administrators would have see this as a wake-up call and take steps to reform policy. It seemed obvious enough that if any issue that transcended political and social divides, the necessity of preserving free speech rights on campus would be it.
I was disabused of my naïveté, however, after reading editorials in our student newspaper that blithely dismissed UChicago's red light rating. Later on, after seeing how FIRE had to defend a student whose Facebook posts were investigated by the University as well as a student group that was denied recognition and dismissed as a "temporary political movement," it became clear that if students didn't loudly proclaim that we expected more from our University, nothing would change.
Bryant has been working hard to demand these changes as a member of the Committee on Campus Expression, improving policies regarding campus protests and student speech rights. He has also penned op-ed pieces in The Chicago Maroon advocating for free speech and due process on campus, and his Students for a Free Society group hosted FIRE’s own Azhar Majeed to discuss these issues in a speaking event this spring.
Bryant is on the right path to make the University of Chicago FIRE’s next green light school. When asked about his advice for other students pursuing similar reforms, he says “Don't wait for someone else — YOU have to be the one to start putting in the work. But once you bring attention to how speech is threatened, you'll be surprised by how much support you can get from other students and faculty. If people seem indifferent to threats to civil liberties, it's usually just because they don't know about how much they're at risk. But nothing will improve until you take the first step.”