Our 2019 Senate Plenary, Free Speech in the Modern University, addresses a topic that is fundamental to our university community. One does not have to search too hard to find numerous instances of universities hosting controversial speakers, which has generated significant backlash among students, faculty, and staff. In some instances, these speakers have been prevented from speaking and violence has erupted.
Free speech in a university setting is something that is central to our educational mission. At the same time, we must create an environment where all people feel included and where all people can participate in the full life of the university. These two priorities (free speech and promoting inclusivity) are occasionally in tension, and how universities address this tension can have longranging impacts on both individuals and the university itself.
Our keynote speaker was Professor Sigal Ben-Porath from the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Ben-Porath has served as Chair of Penn’s Committee on Open Expression for the past two years and is author of the recent book, Free Speech on Campus.
Following the keynote, three of our colleagues joined Professor Ben-Porath for a panel discussion and audience Q&A: Kenyon Bonner, Vice-Provost and Dean of Students; Kristin Kanthak, Associate Professor of Political Science; Jules Lobel, Professor of Law
The Plenary was held on March 27, 2019. You may view the video here.