Freedom of Expression 2018

Freedom of Expression 2018

On Sunday, Feb 10, 2019, Civic Fellows were joined by

Freedom of expression is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans, guaranteed by the First Amendment and held dear for decades by citizens across the political spectrum. But with political tensions at a fever pitch nationwide, the freedom to speak one’s mind has become fraught in recent years — and battles over student speech rights have taken center stage. Can students be punished for walking out in support of gun control–or wearing black face? Should “alt-right” white supremacists be allowed to speak on campus? What about student groups like the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, or Students for Justice in Palestine? Can student athletes take a knee during the National Anthem? In sum: What does free speech mean for students today? Using recent headlines and ongoing controversies as our guide, our Fellows investigated what happens when the First Amendment goes to school.  

Conversation was framed by readings and resources available at

Will provided a powerful overview of the ins and outs of Freedom of Expression. Gil enriched the presentation through sharing experiences and insights about how freedom of expression has played out over his first semester at college, invoking questions about the psychological and sociological toll of unfettered free speech when it crosses the line into hate speech. Check out the full Forum below:

With our minds full of thoughts and questions, we divided up into small groups to grapple with different scenarios:

  • The Student Athletes
  • The Op-Ed
  • The Professor’s Facebook Post
  • The Student’s Instagram Post
  • The Invited Speaker
  • The Classroom Debate
  • The Costume

All scenarios are available at

You view students’ presentations of their responses to these challenging–and very authentic–scenarios here.

Fellows left feeling more energized and empowered for some of the otherwise-unexpected challenges they’ll likely face in college.  And in society at large.