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 will explore ways for campuses nationwide to protect our democratic freedoms.

Join leaders from higher education, politics, media and civil society as we build strategies to improve our democracy and ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. 


9am-12:30pm PT | 12pm-3:30pm ET
Thursday, March 23rd, 2023



Have a question for the speakers? Contact


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
- Moderator: Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, U.S. Center for SafeSport

10:15 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.

10:25 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

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.

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
- Moderator: Tamara Keith, National Public Radio

12:15 PM PT

Lightning Talk: Looking Ahead

With the largest strike in the history of higher education barely in the rear view mirror and a presidential election right around the corner, what does the future of campus expression and engagement hold? Howard Gillman, chancellor of UC Irvine and co-chair of the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement Advisory Board, will share his predictions and how best to prepare.

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

Howard Gillman


UC Irvine

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)

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

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