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Freedom of Speech: Civility, Hate and Justice

Join former ACLU president Nadine Strossen and civil rights expert john a. powell for a powerful discussion about the rights to free speech protected under the First Amendment.

Current interpretation of the First Amendment is not that the right is absolute, but that the restrictions on speech should be limited and narrowly defined. For example, one cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater or speak in a way that is likely to lead to “imminent lawless action.” Doing so creates a “substantial likelihood of imminent harm.”

What about hate speech? The Supreme Court has determined that it is protected by the First Amendment, but what if that speech causes “imminent harm?” Is the recent rise in domestic terrorism linked closely enough to hate speech to be considered “inciting violence” or causing “imminent harm?” Although the First Amendment applies only to government restrictions on speech, censorship on private property is often caught up in the debate of free speech rights. Does the debate change in the context of higher education?

New York Law School professor Nadine Strossen is a leading scholar, advocate, and frequent speaker/media commentator on constitutional law and civil liberties issues. The immediate past President of the American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008), she serves on the national advisory boards of the ACLU, Electronic Privacy Information Center, FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), and Heterodox Academy. The National Law Journal has named Strossen one of America’s “100 Most Influential Lawyers.” Her acclaimed 2018 book HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship was selected by Washington University as its 2019 “Common Read.”

john a. powell is director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and Professor of Law, African American, and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He was previously the executive director at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at the Ohio State University and the Institute for Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota. Prior to that john was the National Legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. His latest book is Racing to Justice: Transforming our Concepts of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society.

This event is part of Free Speech in a Dangerous World, a series exploring the relationship between free speech on campus and diversity and inclusion across disciplines and contexts. Presenting different viewpoints and global perspectives, the series examines the central goals of liberal education, including fostering difficult dialogues, academic freedom, and promoting diversity and inclusive excellence.
Freedom of Speech: Civility, Hate, Justice