Conference at Emory (3/21-3/23) on academic freedom and campus free speech

I'm helping organize an exciting conference, from the evening of March 21 to the afternoon of March 23, 2019, bringing together academics and student-affairs professionals to talk about current issues related to academic freedom and free speech on campus.


I'd like to announce this exciting new conference at the Emory University Conference Center, beginning on the evening of March 21, 2019, and ending on the afternoon of March 23, about academic freedom and campus free speech. It's brought to you by the office of Emory's provost, Dwight McBride, Emory Campus Life, and the Emory University Senate's Committee for Open Expression (which I'm the chair of).

Note that Emory University is one of the handful of universities that has earned a green light rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for its speech-protective policies. Emory's Open Expression policy is very speech-protective, and the Committee for Open Expression has issued a number of opinions interpreting the policy, including one in 2016 explaining that the Trump chalkings were protected speech.

You can register at this link; registration is free for Emory students, faculty, and staff, and for students at other places; and is a very affordable $100 for everyone else.

Academic Freedom and Free Speech on Campus

Join Emory University for its conference Academic Freedom and Free Speech on Campus March 21-23, 2019 to discuss what academic freedom and free speech mean in the life of higher education institutions today.

The conference is an opportunity to showcase how public and private institutions of higher education continue to be on the forefront of debate, deliberation, and knowledge creation. Emory University is committed to this through its strategic framework, which states that "we practice the values of intellectual rigor, integrity, risk taking, and collaboration. Our faculty and students pursue open inquiry across disciplines—guided by evidence, committed to critical inquiry, fueled by the creative spirit, and dedicated not only to discovery in its own right but to solving problems and serving society." This conference was created to demonstrate this commitment.

The goal of the conference is to generate conversations on ideas, laws, policies, and practices related to academic freedom and free speech on college campuses. It will provide opportunities for faculty, scholars, student affairs professionals and students to interrogate ideas ranging from academic freedom and free speech to safe spaces, and to discuss campus protests and dissent in order to develop practices and policies that promote free speech.

Please join the conversation by attending the conference.

Who's participating? A mix of academics, student-affairs professionals, and others. Here is a (not necessarily complete) list, in no particular order:

In addition, we have several participants from Emory, including:

  • Deborah Lipstadt, professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies,
  • Pamela Scully, vice provost for undergraduate education,
  • Michael Shutt, senior director of Campus Life,
  • Michele Hempfling, associate dean of Campus Life, Oxford College of Emory University,
  • Ed Lee, senior director for debate, deliberation, and dialogue,
  • Christa Acampora, deputy provost for academic affairs,
  • Steven Sencer, Emory's general counsel,
  • Lisa Garvin, acting dean of the chapel and spiritual life,
  • Courtnay Oddman, assistant director of residence life,
  • Nancy Seideman, vice president of academic communications,
  • Bert Buchtinec, captain of Emory Police Department,
  • Fred Smith Jr., law professor,
  • Julie Seaman, law professor,
  • Frank Lechner, sociology professor,
  • Karen Andes, professor of global health,
  • Dabney Evans, professor of global health,
  • Henry Bayerle, classics professor,
  • Zach Raetzmann, student,
  • and me.

Please come represent the readership of the Volokh Conspiracy, and say hi to me when you're there!

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  1. I would be careful about attending a conference at a university where the president had promised to use surveillance cameras to track down and punish Trump supporters.…..lkers.html

    1. Yep, after reading the above-linked article that’s gonna be a “no” from me. Sorry, Sasha.

      1. (1) That was years ago, under a different president; (2) he was talking not about the chalkings in general, based on their political message, but about particular chalkings that, he had heard, were placed in various locations where they weren’t allowed (we have a pretty permissive chalking policy, but you have to chalk in the open and on horizontal surfaces); (3) the Committee for Open Expression issued an opinion saying that the Trump chalkings were protected speech, and the president agreed with that; and (4) Emory has a green-light rating from FIRE for its speech-protective policies.

        1. “…he was talking not about the chalking in general, based on their political message, but about particular chalkings that, he had heard, were placed in various locations where they weren’t allowed…”

          The President of the University was addressing a violation of the school chalking policy? He must be a very involved guy. Does he direct the use of surveillance footage to catch students who stick gum under desks as well?

        2. (2) and (3) contradict each other. (The chalkings violated school policy but were protected speech?) And no one but a disingenuous university professor would pretend that the president would have threatened criminal prosecution for people who chalked pro-Obama slogans on a vertical surface (the horror!).

          Anyway, it seems like a risk to me. Certainly when my daughter was at Emory, she would not have felt safe expressing right of center opinions, and neither would I.

          1. (2) and (3) only contradict each other if you think “protected speech” means absolutely no restrictions allowed. Of course we often remove signs (political and otherwise) when they’re glued onto a building: that’s just not an allowed place/way to put signs. But that’s a neutral and reasonable policy. Similarly, chalking isn’t allowed everywhere and anywhere (carpets in buildings?); it has to be a horizontal surface that’s exposed to the elements or foot traffic (“If you can walk it, you can chalk it” is our policy).

            I agree that even neutral rules can be prosecuted discriminatorily, and the Committee for Open Expression opinion stressed exactly that: the rules should be neutral, and the enforcement should be neutral too.

            Anyway, the president changed his tune within a day or two, and actually chalked a pro-free-speech message with College Republicans.

            Finally, I can’t speak to your daughter’s experience (or when it was), but for the past several years, we’ve had a very protective policy in place, and Emory is one of the few schools with a green-light free-speech rating from FIRE.

  2. Given the secrecy surrounding campus misconduct, I guess we’ll never know whether Emory ever actually disciplined any Trump supporters.

    1. I believe the answer is no.

      1. I think you are confirming that, in fact, we do not know. Democracy dies in darkness, and it is dead on American campuses.

        1. I’m in a position to know (though I wouldn’t be authorized to tell you). But if the university had disciplined people for their political beliefs, it would have been a violation of the Emory policy, and presumably whoever was prosecuted for their beliefs would be able to waive their own confidentiality and go to the news media.

          I don’t think you can point to the confidentiality of confidential proceedings and claim that it proves what you’ve already concluded about American campuses.

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