Event Details

Certainly the world generally—and the world of activism—has changed in the past few months. The activism we’re seeing across the country highlights the critical importance of civic participation and speech, both off and on campus.

And with the advent of COVID-19, the college experience now looks different than anything we’ve ever known. Is that also the case for speech and activism, two integral parts of campus life? How do we ensure that free speech and activism not only survive, but thrive, in this new setting?

On Wednesday, June 10th, Fellows Spoma Jovanovic, Professor of Communication Studies at UNC Greensboro, and Emerson Sykes, Staff Attorney for the ACLU, along with graduate student leader Adam Cooper, for the third webinar in our series “Expression and Engagement During COVID-19” discussed these and other critical questions. Executive Director Michelle Deutchman moderated the discussion.


The following are resources referenced to and recommended by the webinar’s speakers on the topics of climate justice, protest, participatory budgeting, and student activism generally:


Adam Cooper

PhD. Student, Slade Group, UCSD

Adam is a second year PhD student studying the impact of oceanic pollution on local air quality. He is a climate activist on campus with UCSD Green New Deal as well as the Sunrise Movement. As a part of the Graduate Student Association’s Legislative Advocacy Committee, he lobbies in support of graduate students’ basic needs, housing and funding.

Spoma Jovanovic

Professor of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro; 2019-2020 Fellow

Since 2001, Spoma Jovanovic, PhD has been teaching students there how to collaborate with community members on programs and activist strategies designed to enhance ethical conversations and action related to civic literacy, cultural understanding, democratic participation, and social justice.

She is the author of the book, Democracy, Dialogue and Community Action: Truth and Reconciliation in Greensboro, and editor of Partnerships: A Journal of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement. Dr. Jovanovic’s scholarship has been featured in dozens of academic journal articles and book chapters, as well as in national magazines, daily newspapers, and a 2013 TEDx Greensboro talk.

Her communication activism has included launching, with the community, the first U.S. truth and reconciliation process, bringing participatory budgeting to her city, and advancing political engagement with an urban high school, as well as expanding spaces for free speech.

Emerson Sykes

Staff Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union; 2019-2020 Fellow

Emerson is a staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project where he focuses on First Amendment free speech protections.

Prior to joining the ACLU in 2018, he was a legal advisor for Africa at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). He provided technical legal assistance to African civil society leaders, government officials, law students, and other stakeholders to improve the legal framework protecting the freedom of association, assembly, and expression. Emerson previously served as assistant general counsel to the New York City Council, where he worked to increase transparency for council members’ discretionary spending, and contributed to the council’s friend-of-the-court brief against the NYPD’s “Stop and Frisk” program. In 2011, he was as senior policy fellow in the office of a Member of Parliament in Ghana. Earlier in his career, Emerson conducted research and wrote about U.S. foreign policy for The Century Foundation and worked for the National Democratic Institute’s Central and West Africa Team.

Emerson holds a J.D. from NYU Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern scholar for public interest law, and a Master of Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton. He earned a B.A. in political science at Stanford.

Related Resources

Resource Materials

Speech Spotlight Series

Fellows Program