Campus Protest: Then and Now

May 21, 2024

Many are drawing analogies between the activism on campuses today and what happened in the 1960s at Kent State, Columbia, Berkeley and other colleges and universities. What are the similarities and differences between then and now? How is protest distinct from civil disobedience and what role is each playing currently? Join a panel of experts to discuss these topics and how universities should respond in this moment and moving forward.

#SpeechMatters 2024: Politics, Polarization and Perils on Campus

April 18, 2024

With campus expression issues splashed across the front page and debated in Congressional hearings, higher education has become increasingly embroiled in our nation’s polarized politics and discourse. The perils of this moment — from balancing speech and Title VI accountability to the targeted harassment of academics — are only compounded in an election year. 

Our sixth annual conference delved into these subjects and explore current challenges and opportunities for learning, activism and engagement. Join legal experts, journalists and college and university leaders for a lively and dynamic half day of discussion.


Back to Basics: A Webinar Series for UC Staff and Faculty

These workshops have been curated specifically for UC staff and faculty members in order to provide space for teams across the system to think through how to support student expression on campus, manage institutional responses to visits by controversial speakers or speaker disruptions, and simultaneously maintain a campus climate of inclusivity and belonging. These workshops are being presented by UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement in partnership with the Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Equity Affairs, UC Legal and the Office of Systemwide Community Safety at the UC Office of the President have produced this webinar series.

You may register for any or all of these training opportunities. A separate webinar series for students is forthcoming.

Academic Freedom 101

March 11, 2024

Much has been made of  the unrelenting attacks on academic freedom from legislatures across the country, but do we really understand what academic freedom is, and how it is distinct from freedom of speech? What does it protect and why is it important to higher education and democracy? This workshop will cover these questions as well as explore how our communities can uphold this critical UC principle.

Featuring: Howard Gillman, Chancellor, UC Irvine and Jim Steintrager, 2023-2024 UC Academic Senate Chair, Professor of English, Comparative Literature and European Languages and Studies, UC Irvine

Title VI Today

February 27, 2024

The federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights recently has opened multiple investigations under Title VI, which prohibits discrimination based on actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including based on allegations of antisemitic and anti-Muslim discrimination or harassment. We will discuss the agency’s positions and guidance as well as University policy regarding responding to allegations of a hostile environment while safeguarding expression.

Featuring: Joshua Meltzer, Principal Counsel, Education Affairs, UC Legal and Sonya Sanchez, Senior Principal Counsel, Education Affairs and Governance, UC Legal — University of California Office of the President

Exploring First Amendment Principles and Campus Expression

February 26, 2024

Need a refresher on those First Amendment basics? Join this workshop to  review what speech is protected by the First Amendment and what is not; forum analysis; time, place and manner regulations and protests/disruption/heckler’s veto. Explore best practices for responding to hateful speech that cannot be prohibited but negatively impacts campus climate.

Featuring: Michelle Deutchman, Executive Director, UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement and Joshua Meltzer, Principal Counsel, Education Affairs, UC Legal — University of California Office of the President

Campus Safety and Protest Management

February 23, 2024

Norms around protest and policing on campuses have changed dramatically. Today, the onus is on student affairs professionals to observe and support students who are engaging in protest. What does this mean for campus safety? When should campus police intercede? How can we better support these professionals and our students? Join for these discussions and more.

Featuring: Heather Belk, Policy and Programs Analyst, Student Policies and Governance, Student Policies and Equity Affairs; Staci Bias, Associate Director, Systemwide Community Safety; and Melissa Collins, Program Manager for Security, Risk and Resilience, UC Risk Services — University of California Office of the President

Speaking up or Staying Silent: Rethinking Institutional Speech

Thursday, December 7, 2023 
Featuring: Lara Schwartz, Neijma Celestine-Donnor, Tom Ginsburg and John Silvanus Wilson

In the wake of the Hamas-Israel war, colleges and universities are grappling with if and how to use their institutional voices as well as the impact of their responses on campus communities. Whether speaking up or remaining silent, leaders have been met with criticism. Join a panel of experts as they weigh the benefits and challenges of using institutional speech in today’s polarized environment.

What Students Can Teach Us About Free Speech and Inclusion: It’s Complicated

Wednesday, November 29, 2023 
Featuring: Elizabeth Niehaus

Classroom discussions, particularly around controversial issues, are hard. Yet the narrative around “student self-censorship,” widely accepted in the current higher education discourse, leads us to believe that the problem is with students shouting each other down or just being too scared to speak up. By understanding the “problem” of free speech on campus not as a problem, but as a series of challenges facing students as they navigate the complexities of discussing controversial issues with diverse peers, we can develop better strategies to promote robust, productive classroom discussions.

The New Campus Speech Zone: Institutional Responses and Educational Efforts Involving Social Media

Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Featuring: Brandi Hephner LaBanc & Neal Hutchens

Institutions of higher education continue to find themselves in the headlines – embroiled in free speech controversies that often stem from online posts or videos that go viral. Center Fellows, Dr. Neal Hutchens and Dr. Brandi Hephner LaBanc will share how best to utilize their toolkit created to help campus members understand the intersections of social media and expression. This session will include best practices that will prepare campus communities for these challenging moments and support individuals and groups that are negatively impacted by the online speech.

Law-Based Threats to Academic Freedom and Racial Inclusion

Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Featuring: Jacqueline Pedota & Liliana Garces

The rights afforded to faculty under academic freedom are at risk amid the proliferation of legislation that seeks to restrict teaching and knowledge production focused on race. These well-funded, coordinated attacks could have severe negative consequences for racial inclusion as they specifically target the crucial role faculty play in promoting racial inclusion through their teaching, research, and service.

As legislative efforts continue, faculty, administrators, and external organizations (e.g., AAUP, Pen America) must build coalitions and work together to combat these law-based threats. Center Fellow Jackie Pedota, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, will be joined by Dr. Liliana Garces, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Texas at Austin, to discuss possible actions administrators and faculty can take to uphold both academic freedom and racial inclusion.

#SpeechMatters 2023: Fighting for our Democratic Freedoms

Thursday, March 23, 2023

In the last year, we have seen our democratic values significantly weakened by political polarization and misinformation. Institutions of higher education – traditionally viewed as havens for access to knowledge and reasoned debate – have faced challenges to academic and personal freedoms that have rippled across our democracy. From state legislation aimed at censoring curriculum to controversial Supreme Court decisions, our fifth annual #SpeechMatters conference explored ways for campuses nationwide to protect our democratic freedoms.

#SpeechMatters: Fighting for our Democratic Freedoms was held virtually on Thursday, March 23, 2023. Along with leaders from higher education, politics, media and civil society, we worked to build strategies to improve our democracy and ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.

Click here for to view video recordings from the event sessions!

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