The Center’s second annual #SpeechMatters conference took place on Thursday, February 27, 2020 in Washington, DC.

With a presidential election and national census, the stakes were high for U.S. democracy in 2020 — and civic engagement was more important than ever. Leading experts convened to discuss today’s most pressing issues related to participation, protest and policy development on college campuses nationwide.


View and download resources with examples of campus policies and guidelines around speech, protest and demonstrations here:


12:00 PM

Registration & Lunch

Doors open; lunch provided.

12:30 PM

Opening Remarks [FULL VIDEO]

University of California President Janet Napolitano and UC National Center for Free Speech & Civic Engagement Executive Director Michelle Deutchman kick off the day with welcome remarks.

12:40 PM

Facebook and the Presidential Election [FULL VIDEO]

“Election” and “Facebook” often appear in the same sentence. Facebook Public Policy Director for Global Elections, Katie Harbath, discusses the company’s efforts to protect elections and encourage civic participation.

1:05 PM

Cast Your Vote: How Students Are Shaping American Democracy [FULL VIDEO]

Between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections, voter turnout among U.S. college students more than doubled. What does this dramatic spike mean for 2020? Voting researchers and advocates will discuss why young adult participation in elections matters and how campuses can boost voter engagement.

1:45 PM

Fellows Program Video Presentation [FULL VIDEO]

The Center highlights the 2019-2020 class of Fellows and their research projects in a brief video.

2:15 PM

Lightning Talk [FULL VIDEO]

University of California, Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman reviews the basic legal issues shaping how campuses address protest and the policy choices campuses must make, with specific examples from UCI’s recently promulgated free speech policies.

2:25 PM

Get Up, Stand Up: Protest and Disruption on Campus [FULL VIDEO]

A recurring challenge for universities is how best to handle campus protests. How do we create and enforce policies that ensure students can use their voices while maintaining a safe environment? What is the line between protected protest and disruption? In this panel, campus leaders discuss drafting policies and best practices.

3:15 PM

Tackling Hate: Dumpson v. Anglin [FULL VIDEO]

Taylor Dumpson was the first African-American female student body president of American University. Following her election in May 2017, nooses were hung throughout campus and a neo-Nazi posted Dumpson’s personal information online and encouraged his followers to harass her. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights represented Dumpson; a Lawyer’s Committee team member shares the story of her case and what its outcome means for online harassment.

3:55 PM

Notes from the Field: Civic Participation on Campus [FULL VIDEO]

Engaging with the democratic process includes much more than voting. This panel of experts discusses other forms of civic participation including the census, responsible citizenship and the role higher education must play in fostering involvement across the campus community.

5:15 PM

Closing Remarks [FULL VIDEO]

Executive Director Michelle Deutchman wraps up the day's events with brief remarks.

Event Photos


Nadia Aziz

Interim Co-Director & Policy Counsel

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Tara Bahrampour

Reporter on aging/generations/demography

The Washington Post

Andrea Brenner

Sociologist and First-year Experience

Curricula Designer; 2019-2020 Fellow, UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement

Erwin Chemerinsky


UC Berkeley School of Law

Christine Chen

Executive Director

Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote)

Vanessa Crow

Complete Count Committee Chair

League of Women Voters of Wake County

Michelle Deutchman

Executive Director

UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement

Leslie Garvin

Executive Director

North Carolina Campus Compact

Howard Gillman


University of California, Irvine

Katie Harbath

Public Policy Director, Global Elections


Spoma Jovanovic

Professor of Communication Studies

UNC, Greensboro; 2019-2020 Fellow, UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement

Tamara Keith

White House Correspondent


Katherine Mangan

Senior Writer

Chronicle of Higher Education

Janet Napolitano


University of California

Kyhm Penfil

Campus Counsel

University of California, Irvine

Lauren Robel


Indiana University

Sandra Rodriguez

Director, Student Engagement

University of Nevada, Reno

Kristen Roman

Chief of Police

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Varsha Sarveshwar


University of California Student Association

Dr. Mark S. Schlissel


University of Michigan

Jonathan Schwartz


Every Vote Counts

Nancy Thomas

Director, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education

Tufts University


University of California,
Washington Center (UCDC)

1608 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Weren’t able to make it to DC or tune into the live stream? Watch the full day of sessions here:

Click below to see photos and videos from last year’s conference.