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Time to talk about free speech and hate speech on campus

Written by  Ashleigh Aldridge
  • October 03, 2019

First amendment 492UAB will offer several opportunities for students, faculty and staff to explore concerns about and responses to free speech and hate speech on campus and beyond beginning Oct. 14.

The Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will host a community town hall meeting to address the thoughts, questions and concerns of students, faculty and staff 6 p.m. Oct. 14 in Heritage Hall Room 102. David Hudson Jr., J.D., a nationally renowned speaker on First Amendment issues, particularly school law, student rights and public employment free-speech controversies, will moderate. Register to attend online. 

UAB also will host workshops — two for students and one for faculty and staff — led by Lara Schwartz, J.D., and Andrea Brenner, Ph.D., Oct. 16 and 17. Seating is limited, and registration is required.

During the workshops students are asked to consider solutions to problems that might arise in their college community and help them brainstorm and evaluate campus policies regarding free speech, hate speech and expression and explore avenues for civic engagement — other than traditional protest — available to them on and off campus.

  • The Free Speech and Hate Speech workshop for students will be held 5 p.m. Oct. 16 in Hill Student Center Room 203; register online.
  • The Free Speech and Hate Speech Activism Workshop will be held noon Oct. 17 in Hill Student Center Room 203; register online.

The Oct. 16 workshop for faculty and staff will focus on concerns about free speech, hate speech and expressions they may have experienced in and outside the classroom. Techniques for de-escalation, civil discussion, maintaining neutrality, tying civil discourse to course learning objectives or program goals, and maintaining authenticity while keeping personal opinions and political orientation separate from assessment and outcomes. The session is noon-1:30 p.m. in Finley Conference Center; lunch is provided for those who register.

Schwartz teaches in American University's School of Public Affairs, where she directs the Project on Civil Discourse, and focuses campus speech, constitutional law, civil rights, politics, communications and policy. She and Brenner are co-authors of “How to College: What to Know Before You Go (And When You’re There),” a practical guide for students.

Brenner, a sociologist, is creator and director of the nationally recognized American University Experience (AUx) Program, a mandatory, year-long graded course focused on race, inclusion and discourse across differences. Her research focuses on the complexities of white professors teaching about race and racism to students of color.