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.
THURSDAY, MARCH 23
UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement Executive Director Michelle Deutchman and University of California President Michael V. Drake kick off the day with welcome remarks.
Is Social Media Helping or Harming Democracy?
Social media has been instrumental in creating a larger public forum and enabling new and systemically under-represented voices to enter the conversation. At the same time, it has allowed mis- and disinformation to spread at an alarming scale. In this panel, experts representing industry, faculty and advocacy groups consider the intersection of technology and expression, answering the essential question: is social media helping or harming democracy?
- Joan Donovan, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
- Jessica González, Free Press & Free Press Action
- Jeff Jarvis, Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY's Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism
- Moderator: Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, U.S. Center for SafeSport
Lightning Talk: What's on the Docket?
This term, the United States Supreme Court is hearing cases that will impact democracy: the expression rights of business owners, the role of state power in federal elections and the future of race in college admissions. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley School of Law and board co-chair of the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement will highlight these critical cases and share how he thinks SCOTUS may rule.
Are Attacks on Academic Freedom a Threat to Democracy?
Recent history has shown us that lawmakers are willing to use their legislative powers to limit what can be taught in classrooms – but what effect are these restrictions having on our democracy overall? This panel considers the many facets of academic freedom from the perspectives of administrators, academics and practitioners.
- Lynn M. Gangone, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
- Monroe Gorden, UCLA
- Amna Khalid, Carleton College
- Jeff Snyder, Carleton College
- Moderator: Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
- The State of Education Censorship in Institutions of Higher Ed and Implications for the Field - American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
Armchair Discussion: Democracy Demands Dialogue
Bridge USA CEO Manu Meel and Tania Israel, Professor of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, delve into the importance of having challenging conversations - despite the discomfort that can sometimes result.
- The Flowchart That Will Resolve All Political Conflict in Our Country
- Beyond Your Bubble: How to Connect Across the Political Divide: Skills and Strategies for Conversations That Work by Tania Israel
- Start a Chapter - BridgeUSA
- SpeechMatters Podcast Ep. 11: Home for the Holidays: Dialoguing Across Political Difference
Purpose of the Press: The Role of Student Media in Navigating Campus Speech Challenges
Join student editors and a freedom of press attorney in this discussion about the sometimes conflicting responsibilities of student press to the values of diversity, equity and inclusion and free expression. What is the campus newspaper’s role in responding to harmful speech that occurs in the community? How do journalists manage their roles as both students and reporters?
- Sommer Ingram Dean, Student Press Law Center
- Amitka Iyer, The Daily Nexus, UC Santa Barbara
- Christopher Ying, The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley
- Moderator: Tamara Keith, National Public Radio
Executive Director Michelle Deutchman wraps up the day's events with brief remarks.
UC Berkeley School of Law
Sommer Ingram Dean
Student Press Law Center
UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement
Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy
Michael V. Drake
University of California
Lynn M. Gangone
President & CEO
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
Free Press & Free Press Action
Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs
Chair of the Board of Directors
U.S. Center for SafeSport
Professor of Counseling Psychology
UC Santa Barbara
Editor in Chief
The Daily Nexus (UC Santa Barbara)
Director, Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism
White House Correspondent
National Public Radio
Associate Professor, Department of History
Chief Executive Officer
Associate Professor, Department of Educational Studies
The Washington Post
The Daily Californian (UC Berkeley)
UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Enagement
Click below to see photos and videos from last year’s conference.