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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.

Campus Safety and Protest Management

February 23, 11am-12pm PT

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

Exploring First Amendment Principles and Campus Expression

February 26, 2pm-3pm PT

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 Elisabeth Yap, Senior Principal Counsel, Education Affairs, UC Legal, University of California Office of the President

Title VI Today

February 27, 2pm-3pm PT

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

Academic Freedom 101

March 11, 1pm-2pm PT

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


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!

Beyond Voting: Nurturing Democracy on Campus

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Although ballots have been cast in the midterms, higher education’s role in fostering democratic engagement on campus is far from over. On November 16, join four civic experts―Alexander Edgar, UC Berkeley Vote Coalition Director; Brian Hughes, Co-founder and Associate Director, Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL); Nancy Thomas, Director, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, Tufts University; and Dawn Whitehead, Vice President, Office of Global Citizenship for Campus, Community, and Careers, American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)―for a dynamic conversation about the importance of student engagement and how to institutionalize civic participation and democratic learning year-round.

Art and Porn on Campus

Thursday, October 13, 2022 
Featuring: Lynn Comella & Amy Werbel

Two interesting and provocative topics, each studied by a Center Fellow. Lynn Comella, Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at University of Nevada at Las Vegas, utilized the campus flashpoint of pornography in order to develop best practices and policy recommendations for strengthening speech and academic freedom initiatives. Amy Werbel, Professor of the History of Art at the State University of New York, Fashion Institute of Technology analyzed freedom of artistic expression (or lack thereof) in academic museums and galleries. 

On October 13, join Lynn and Amy for a discussion that will explore how faculty and curators navigate institutional restraints and external pressures which, in turn, lead to increased self-censorship and concerns about the future of expression in higher education.

The Shifting Landscape: Bias Response Teams and Emerging Alternatives

Tuesday, August 23, 2022 

Featuring: Ryan A. Miller

Bias response teams (BRTs) represent one of the most polarizing current debates about free speech and equity in higher education. Hundreds of colleges and universities have created BRTs to receive reports of bias and hate incidents on campus from students and employees. BRTs often focus their work on speech and expression which may be protected by law or policy, but which has a negative impact on campus constituencies. Their presence prompts questions about the compatibility and balancing of various values including creating a welcoming campus climate and valuing free expression. Advocacy groups have launched lawsuits challenging BRTs and their procedures in public institutions.

Given this contentious climate, some colleges and universities are revisiting their bias response procedures and crafting alternative educational and response mechanisms. Center Fellow Dr. Ryan Miller, Associate Professor of Higher Education at UNC Charlotte, will be joined by Dr. Liliana Garces, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Texas at Austin, to discuss the current landscape for bias response in higher education.


Cultivating Constructive Dialogue in the Classroom (Workshop)

Thursday, August 11, 2022 
Featuring: Jacob Fay

In this interactive session, Jacob Fay will share lessons about cultivating constructive dialogue in the higher ed classroom. Drawing from his experience developing a multi-institutional partnership committed to civil disagreement, as well as his work at a civic non-profit organization, Fay will guide participants through practices that help lay the foundation for having hard conversations across difference, as well as situate those practices within an emerging pedagogical theory of change and democratic theory. NOTE: The event was not recorded.

#SpeechMatters: Safeguarding Democracy

Our fourth annual conference – #SpeechMatters: Safeguarding Democracy – was held virtually on Wednesday, April 6th and Thursday, April 7th, 2022. Click here for more information; full videos from the event are available here.


Speech Spotlight Live: Student Activism Against Sexual Violence on Campus

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Whether protesting outside fraternity houses, coordinating walk-outs or gathering 50,000 signatures to petition a rollback of the Trump administration’s Title IX rules, the past year saw a continuation of student activism against sexual violence on college campuses. Does amplification of this issue lead to substantive change? How do universities balance speech and due process in their efforts to combat sexual violence and foster cultures of safety, respect and accountability?

Join Tommy Jung, member of UC’s Title IX Student Advisory Board, Danésha Nichols, Director, Harassment & Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program at UC Davis, and Suzanne Taylor, UC’s Systemwide Title IX Director for a discussion of these important and challenging questions.


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Related Resources


Fellows in the Field

Speech Spotlight Series