Freedom of Expression with Will Creeley 2019

Freedom of Expression with Will Creeley 2019

We were thrilled to have Will Creeley, Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), join us on Sun, Nov 17, 2019 for the third year in a row to lead a very timely conversation about Freedom of Expression (yup, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, and political ads figured in)

But first, we started with vigorous Current Event cluster conversations, discussing the latest in Impeachment, new entries into the Democratic primaries, recent developments around abortion and Planned Parenthood, gun violence and the Supreme Court decision around whether Sandy Hook parents can sue gun manufacturers, Rodney Reed and death penalty, and DACA and immigration.

Onto Freedom of Expression. Among the issues most on our mind this year:

  • How should we handle free speech in the classroom–including perspectives that might be uncomfortable?
  • Where is the line between free speech and hate speech (at a time when hate crimes are at a 16 year high) and how should it be handled? Where is the line between being uncomfortable and being unsafe?
  • What, if anything, is lost in restricting speech and why does it matter? 
  • IS there tension between civil liberties (individual rights) and civil rights (groups’ rights) and what should be prioritize?
Check out Will’s framing remarks below:

After building foundational knowledge, we delved into (you guessed it) Facebook.

After foregrounding the issues, our Fellows talked in small groups about whether Facebook and social media SHOULD try to regulate political ads and the like, whether the government should, how we would go about this, should we (yes!) quit social media–and would it matter or would disinformation just find new ways of reaching us…

Our Civic Fellows had LOTS to share when we came back together as a whole group


We split up into subgroups to grapple with six, very real world scenarios in small groups: The Student Athletes, The Op-Ed, The Professor’s Facebook Post, The Classroom Debate, The Costumes, and The Walkout.  After hashing out the perspectives of different stakeholders, where the free expression parameters are, and what advice Fellows would provide for about 30 min, we split up into new groups with representatives from each of the six scenarios to share the tensions each group talked through, what resolution we came to (if any!), and open questions we have.


We returned for brief synthesis by Will–and to writing out notecards of further questions some of our Fellows will pose to him on tomorrow’s podcast.

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