USU panel to discuss free speech on college campuses

Free Speech Graphic

The Utah State University Institute of Government and Politics (IOGP) will host a panel titled, “Free Speech on Campus: Where’s the Line?” at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Huntsman Hall’s Perry Pavilion.

The event comes at a time when free speech, especially on college campuses, has become a complicated, hot-button issue.

However, nationwide events of the past month — in particular, the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and the resulting protests — are not what inspired the event. Jashon Bishop, the IOGP’s Recruitment and Programs Coordinator, said the event has been in the works since the spring when protests and questions about free speech were increasing, and that these issues have “only gotten more relevant after what’s happened in the last month.”

Neil Abercrombie, director of the IOGP, said debates about free speech on college campuses are a nationwide issue.

“It’s a tricky balance of making sure someone feels that they’re not being targeted or harassed,” he said, “but that we continue to be this free marketplace of ideas where people feel they can share whatever idea they want, regardless of how controversial it may or may not be.”

This panel will include Marina Lowe, legislative and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, Rep. Justin Fawson (R-North Ogden) of the Utah House of Representatives, Kim Lott, USU associate professor and Faculty Senate president and Michael Scott Peters, Utah State University Student Association president. The panel discussion will be moderated by Joseph Ward, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

“We were hoping this panel would be a representative of different groups of people and maybe some different perspectives, and to get some good discussion,” Bishop said. “We definitely want to have diverse viewpoints that will bring up some good points and make people think about it.”

Organizers said they welcome questions submitted beforehand. Questions may be sent to or tweeted with the hashtag #usufreespeech.

“I think Utah State historically has always been a place where people have felt very comfortable sharing ideas and not feeling threatened or censored,” Abercrombie said. “Everybody is asking a lot of questions about what the parameters are of free speech and I think they’re all valid questions.”


Illustration by Emmalee Olsen