Over the past year higher education has been upended as colleges and universities transitioned to remote learning and the online campus. How has this transition—along with the summer’s historic protests, the 2020 election and the change in administration—impacted democratic engagement, activism and the national speech landscape? How will we navigate the return to in-person learning and post-pandemic life?


On Tuesday, April 20th and Wednesday, April 21st, 2021, scholars, students and advocates addressed these and other questions at the Center’s 3rd annual #SpeechMatters conference.

DAY 1: TUESDAY, APRIL 20 (transcript)

10:00 AM PT

Opening Remarks

UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement Executive Director Michelle Deutchman kicks off the day with welcome remarks.

10:10 AM PT

On Trust in Science and Public Health Communications

UC President Michael V. Drake, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly and NPR health reporter Pien Huang discuss the importance of science and medicine and the role of government in shaping the public health message.

10:55 AM PT

Challenges to Truth: Disinformation in the Digital Age

Leading experts in the field discuss how campus stakeholders—and society at large—can mitigate the impact and harm of fake news, false narratives and algorithmic bias.

- Renee DiResta, Stanford Internet Observatory
- Alice E. Marwick, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Ebonee Rice, News Literacy Project
- Moderator: David Greene, Electronic Frontier Foundation

- Data & Society: Critical Disinformation Studies: A Syllabus
- Data & Society: Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online Report
- News Literacy Project: Checkology Virtual Classroom
- News Literacy Project: Educator Network
- News Literacy Project: Educator Resources Library
- News Literacy Project: Professional Development
- News Literacy Project: The Sift Newsletter

11:55 AM PT

Diving Deep: Current Threats to Academic Freedom

A conversation with former Center Fellow Keith Whittington, Academic Committee Chair of the recently founded Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA). AFA is dedicated to protecting the rights of faculty members at colleges and universities to speak, instruct, and publish without fear of sanction or punishment.

Organizations that defend academic freedom:
- Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA)
- Academic Freedom Alliance: A Q & A with Keith Whittington
- American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
- Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)

12:25 PM PT

Closing Remarks

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

DAY 2: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 21 (transcript)

10:00 AM PT

Opening Remarks

UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement Executive Director Michelle Deutchman kicks off the day with welcome remarks.

10:05 AM PT

Remarks from the UC Student Association

UCSA President Aidan Arasasingham sets the stage for the “Student Advocacy and Activism at UC” panel.

10:10 AM PT

Student Advocacy and Activism at UC

Hear from University of California undergraduate and graduate change-makers about their efforts to transform university life during challenging times.

- Rafael Jaime, Southern Vice President UAW 2865, UC Los Angeles
- Syreeta Nolan, Disability Advocate, UC San Diego
- Naomi Waters, Racial Justice Now! Campaign Vice-Chair, UC Riverside
- Essence Wynter, BSU Demands Team Lead, UC Santa Barbara
- Moderator: Emerson Sykes, ACLU; '19-20 Center Fellow

- Center for Health Journalism: Left Behind: Waiting for a vaccine, as a disabled college student
- Daily Bruin: UCLA announces tuition accommodation for nonresident doctoral students
- The Daily Californian: UC student worker union files unfair labor practice charge against UC system
- The Daily Californian: UC union fights back against ICE international student guidelines
- Inside Higher Ed: ‘Proof of Concept’ (Will Colleges Maintain Flexibility for Disabled Students?)
- Inside Higher Ed: Disability as Diversity
- UCSA Letter: Request for Continued COVID-19 International Student Academic Flexibility

11:05 AM PT

Processing and Predictions: A Conversation about Speech on Campus

Center Executive Director Michelle Deutchman sits down with Center Co-Chairs Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of UC Berkeley School of Law, and Howard Gillman, Chancellor of UC Irvine.

11:40 AM PT

Looking Ahead: Sustaining and Building Civic Engagement on Campus

Through protesting, volunteering, advocating and voting, young people fueled a new wave of civic engagement in 2020. Leaders in the field of campus voting and engagement discuss how higher education can support this momentum and further incorporate civic engagement into daily campus life.

- Jen Domagal-Goldman, ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge
- Katya Ehresman, Campus Vote Project
- Alexandria Harris, The Andrew Goodman Foundation
- Moderator: Greta Anderson, Inside Higher Ed

- ALL IN Challenge: Action Plan Development
- ALL IN Challenge: D-I-Y Texting Guide for Widespread Voter Engagement
- ALL IN Challenge: Student Voting Group Report 2021
- ALL IN Challenge: Virtual Relational Organizing Techniques

12:25 PM PT

Closing Remarks

Executive Director Michelle Deutchman wraps up the 2021 conference with brief remarks.


Greta Anderson


Inside Higher Ed

Aidan Arasasingham


UC Student Association

Erwin Chemerinsky


UC Berkeley School of Law

Michelle Deutchman

Executive Director

UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement

Renée DiResta

Technical Research Manager

Stanford Internet Observatory

Jennifer Domagal-Goldman

Executive Director

ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge at Civic Nation

Michael V. Drake


University of California

Katya Ehresman

Student Advisory Board Chair

Campus Vote Project

Mark Ghaly MD, MPH


California Health and Human Services Agency

Howard Gillman


UC Irvine

David Greene

Senior Staff Attorney and Civil Liberties Director

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Alexandria Harris


The Andrew Goodman Foundation

Pien Huang

Reporter, Science Desk


Rafael Jaime

Southern Vice President

UAW 2865, UC Los Angeles

Alice E. Marwick

Associate Professor, Department of Communication

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Syreeta Nolan

Disability Advocate

UC San Diego

Ebonee Rice

Vice President, Educator Network

News Literacy Project

Emerson Sykes

Staff Attorney


Naomi Waters

Racial Justice Now! Campaign Vice-Chair

UC Riverside

Keith E. Whittington

Chair, Academic Committee

Academic Freedom Alliance

Essence Wynter

BSU Demands Team Lead

UC Santa Barbara

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