Free Speech on College Campuses: Should There Be Any Limits? (November 16, 2017)

Academies flourish with free and open discourse. But does the right to free speech include the right to share what is experienced by some as hateful? If so, who defines when discourse has crossed the line to be too vitriolic? Some are concerned that efforts to increase sensitivity and safety are suppressing frank and open discussion. Others believe colleges and universities have a duty to protect students from what some deem as hateful rhetoric that targets specific groups in harmful ways.

A growing number of conflicts in the form of large public demonstrations and event protests have created an urgent need for institutions to define freedom of expression on their respective campuses. As polarized speech may incite violent action, does a university have a responsibility to provide for the physical safety—or the right to speak—of incendiary speakers?

The Fall 2017 William R. and Linda K. Cotter Debate will explore how academic institutions can support diversity and inclusion while providing space for robust discourse, deliberation, and disagreement.

Panelists Include:

Jon A. Shields, associate professor of Government, Claremont McKenna College
Laura Beth Nielsen, director of the Legal Studies Program and professor of Sociology, Northwestern University
Jon Zimmerman, professor of history of education, University of Pennsylvania

Moderated by Neil Gross, professor of Sociology, Colby College

Learn more about the panelists here >>>


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