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. 




9:00 AM PT

Opening Remarks

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.

9:15 AM PT

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

- Ask the Experts: Evaluating Online Speech

10:10 AM PT

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.

10:20 AM PT

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
- “DEI Goals Are Worthy. Campus DEI Bureaucracies Fail Them.” (Amna Khalid & Jeff Snyder, The Washington Post, March 15, 2023
- "Dark Times for Academic Freedom in the Sunshine State" (Khalid & Snyder, Persuasion, February 10, 2023)
- "The Sunshine State Descends into Darkness (Again)" (Khalid & Snyder, Banished Podcast, January 23, 2023)

11:10 AM PT

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
- BridgeUSA
- Start a Chapter - BridgeUSA
- SpeechMatters Podcast Ep. 11: Home for the Holidays: Dialoguing Across Political Difference

11:40 AM PT

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

- Student Press Law Center
- The Daily Californian (UC Berkeley)
- The Daily Nexus (UC Santa Barbara)

12:25 PM PT

Closing Remarks

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


Erwin Chemerinsky


UC Berkeley School of Law

Sommer Ingram Dean

Staff Attorney

Student Press Law Center

Michelle Deutchman

Executive Director

UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement

Joan Donovan

Research Director

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

Jessica González


Free Press & Free Press Action

Monroe Gorden

Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs


Jessica Herrera-Flanigan

Chair of the Board of Directors

U.S. Center for SafeSport

Tania Israel

Professor of Counseling Psychology

UC Santa Barbara

Atmika Iyer

Editor in Chief

The Daily Nexus (UC Santa Barbara)

Jeff Jarvis

Director, Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism


Tamara Keith

White House Correspondent

National Public Radio

Amna Khalid

Associate Professor, Department of History

Carleton College

Manu Meel

Chief Executive Officer


Jeff Snyder

Associate Professor, Department of Educational Studies

Carleton College

Valerie Strauss

Education Reporter

The Washington Post

Christopher Ying

Senior Staff

The Daily Californian (UC Berkeley)

Melanie Ziment

Program Associate

UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Enagement

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