To explore the intersection of expression, engagement and democratic learning and consider what can be done to restore trust in the value of free speech on college campuses and within society at large.


Born at UC Berkeley in the 1960s, the Free Speech Movement changed the way Americans viewed the First Amendment. Today, a renewed wave of activism, controversy and backlash on college campuses is once again forcing institutions of higher education to grapple with questions of open expression and civic engagement. Many – including scholars, policy makers and students – are questioning the role and significance of free speech on college campuses, sparking a national debate about the intention, scope and application of the First Amendment.

Continuing UC’s legacy of leading edge influence, the Center seeks to help move this conversation from soundbites to thoughtful dialogue. Through research, advocacy, debate, and discussion, the Center is dedicated to ensuring that all higher education stakeholders are prepared to understand, defend, and advance these values.

For more on the historical context and why the Center was founded, see the video below featuring former University of California President Janet Napolitano:

“The University of California must not only educate students and conduct groundbreaking research. It must also serve as a training ground for an educated, engaged citizenry — for leaders who will uphold our intrinsic democratic ideals while also helping us navigate a changing social and political landscape. Through the Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, UC will move the conversation to thoughtful dialogue and meaningful action.”

– Janet Napolitano, Past President, University of California, Inaugural Center Chair