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Upcoming UWF Lecture Focuses On Free Speech

Princeton University

Free speech is a central part of a university’s mission. That’s the topic of the University of West Florida’s 2017 first amendment lecture on Tuesday evening, March 21. 

The lecture will be given by Dr. Keith Whittington, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University and currently director of graduate studies in the Department of Politics. He says he came to this year’s topic because he feels free speech is increasingly under attack from people both inside and outside of universities. "I think part of the threat comes from people who don't fully understand what universities are even for and why we have them in the first place." Whittington says ultimately is universities are going to be allowed to perform their mission, then "robust free speech" must also be allowed on campus.

Professor Whittington will also touch on the following points:

  • Free speech means not only academic freedom, but also the freedom for outside speakers to come on campus and talk about different subjects and points of view.
  • While public and private universities have different constitutional responsibilities (Public schools as state institutions are really governmental agencies and are bound by state and federal constitutional free speech requirements. Private colleges, not so much), in practice both usually strive for academic and speech freedom.
  • There have been recent protests at universities about certain speakers being invited to talk at universities and spouting unpopular views. Professor Whittington says such protests have been going on for decades, however they may be more frequents in the past five or ten years.
  • When it comes to academic freedom and constitutional law, Whittington says the concept in not well recognized by courts. even though there has been advocacy for the concept, courts have been tentative when approaching the topic.

Dr. Keith Whittington will be delivering the UWF First Amendment Lecture called “Why Free Speech is Central to the Mission of a University” on Tuesday, March 21 at 7 p.m. at the UWF Music Hall.