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Communications and Marketing

Sticks and Stones: Free speech

Students and faculty gathered to talk about one of the most debated ideas throughout American history—free speech—during an on-campus panel discussion, “Sticks and Stones: The Values and Limits of Free Speech,” on October 26.

“There were two reasons why the Ethics Center decided to sponsor a panel on free speech,” Director of the Ethics Center Daw-Nay Evans said. “First, college campuses across the country, including our own, have recently been wrestling with the tension between human dignity and the First Amendment. Second, I think it’s important for faculty to model what civil and informed disagreement about controversial matters should look like for students. On the whole, I think we achieved both of these aims.” 

Nearly 40 students and faculty gathered in Meyer Auditorium to discuss the ramifications and benefits of free speech in certain settings throughout daily life. In an open exchange of ideas, panelists and the audience discussed the harms, benefits, and historical examples of free speech.

“Is there a distinction between public and private speech in society today?” is just one of the many questions and topics that audience members raised during the panel. 

Evans, who is also the K. & H. Montgomery Assistant Professor in the Humanities and assistant professor of philosophy, led the panel, which included Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Politics Chad McCracken, Uihlein Assistant Professor of American Politics Evan Oxman, and Assistant Professor of African American History Courtney Cain.

Each panelist presented their personal stance on the concept of free speech in our society before the panel opened the discussion to questions from the audience.

Through civil and respectable discourse, the audience and panel members debated several ideas surrounding the topic of free speech, including:

  • the meaning of free speech,
  • specific historical and legal instances where free speech has been limited or expanded, and
  • ways to consider or address disagreeable or potentially harmful free speech that could occur in different settings in our society today. 

— By Tracy Koenn ’18