John Villasenor of UCLA Luskin Public Policy moderated a conversation with University of California President Janet Napolitano and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband at a conference on the future of free expression on campus held March 21, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Napolitano said that, from a policy perspective, free speech is widely respected and upheld on U.S. college campuses, but implementing First Amendment protections raises challenges. These include safeguarding individuals or groups targeted by harassing speech, paying for security to maintain order when controversial speakers are invited to campus, and educating the next generation about the value of civil discourse by “not just speaking but listening to all voices,” she said. Citing a survey of college students conducted by Villasenor, Dreiband said many believe that shouting down speakers, or even using violence, is appropriate to counter offensive speech. Free speech is also threatened by the groupthink that takes hold on some campuses, leading to self-censorship by students who agree with controversial speakers but fear retaliation by peers or professors, Dreiband said. The trio’s dialogue came at the close of the “Speech Matters” conference organized by the UC’s National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.
View a video of the conference here.