'Free Speech on Campus' Symposium Brings Together First Amendment Stars, University Presidents and Activists

September 21, 2016

First Amendment scholars will join university presidents, activists and other experts to explore free speech on campus Oct. 13-14 at the University of Virginia School of Law.Poster

The third biennial Jefferson Symposium, sponsored by the Law School and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, will examine contemporary attitudes about free speech at American colleges and universities. The event is supported by the Scripps Howard Foundation, and is co-sponsored by the student organizations the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and the Federalist Society.

“Traditionally American colleges and universities were the vanguard of First Amendment freedoms,” said Thomas Jefferson Center Director Josh Wheeler '92. “Students demanded — and made powerful use of — expanded speech rights on campus, and administrators held academic freedom sacrosanct. Today, however, the focus has shifted to limiting rather than promoting the free exchange of ideas, as growing numbers view freedom of speech as secondary to other values.”

Wheeler said the symposium aims to achieve greater understanding of the origins, dynamics and consequences of this shift.

Among the scheduled speakers are University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, former Colgate University president and current Newseum CEO Jeffrey Herbst, University of Richmond President Emeritus Edward L. Ayers, Slate senior editor Dahlia Lithwick, and Kelly Carlin, actor, humorist and daughter of George Carlin.

Free and open to the public, the symposium will take place in the Law School’s Caplin Pavilion. Each of the event’s two days will feature two panel discussions. The first, on Oct. 13, will focus on “Free Speech In and Out of the Classroom.” Speakers include Ayers, Carlin, Lithwick, and Dean Blake D. Morant '78 of George Washington University Law School. The day’s second panel, “Free Speech and Equal Dignity,” will feature Susan Brison of Dartmouth College and UVA professors Claudrena Harold (history) and Leslie Kendrick ‘06 (law).

Events on Oct. 14 will begin with the panel “Free Speech in the Modern University,” with slated speakers Herbst, Sullivan and Vikram Amar, dean of the University of Illinois School of Law. The final panel, “Free Speech vs. Hostile Environment,” will feature UVA Law professor Anne M. Coughlin and Eugene Volokh of the University of California at Los Angeles, as well as Susan Kruth of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Thursday, Oct. 13


1 p.m. 
Welcoming Remarks
John C. Jeffries Jr., University of Virginia School of Law


1:15-2:30 p.m. 

Free Speech In and Out of the Classroom

  • Edward L. Ayers, president emeritus, University of Richmond
  • Kelly Carlin, writer, actor, producer and humorist
  • Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor, Slate
  • Dean Blake D. Morant '78, George Washington University Law School


2:45-4 p.m.
Free Speech and Equal Dignity

  • Susan Brison, Dartmouth College
  • Claudrena Harold, University of Virginia
  • Leslie Kendrick '06, University of Virginia School of Law

Friday, Oct. 14


9-10:30 a.m.
Free Speech in the Modern University

  • Dean Vikram Amar, University of Illinois School of Law
  • Jeffrey Herbst, president and CEO of Newseum, former president of Colgate University
  • Teresa A. Sullivan, president, University of Virginia


10:45 a.m.-Noon
Free Speech vs. Hostile Environment

  • Anne M. Coughlin, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Susan Kruth '11, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
  • Eugene Volokh, University of California at Los Angeles School of Law

Media Contact

Kimberly Reich
Director of Media Relations
kreich@virginia.edu / (434) 982-6832

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