Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Poster for Free Speech on Campus

Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium – 7 p.m.

Free Speech on Campus

Sigal Ben-Porath, Professor at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania

Free speech, a staple of modern democracy, has become the focal point for political and cultural forces impacting universities. Higher education is charged with the mandate to expand the boundaries of knowledge; to disseminate knowledge through teaching and other modes; and to serve the public by training citizens and leaders. To do so it must ensure that a broad range of views and approaches are discussed openly. But should all speech be protected in the name of free inquiry? Should the universities allow bigotry or exclusionary speech that targets specific groups? Should it make room for misinformation? Recent speech controversies around the globe expose the difficulty in carving a response in this polarized time. This struggle over the boundaries of speech is based in disagreement over core democratic principles. A democratic framework of inclusive freedom will be presented and defended. It reflects the values of protecting free thought, inquiry and expression, and maintaining a commitment to the dignity of all campus members.

This event is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and is part of the Dialogues Across Differences Series.

Topic overview written by Erin Lowe ’23


Sigal Ben-Porath PhotoSigal Ben-Porath is professor at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is also a member of the philosophy and the political science departments, and a fellow at the Institute for Law and Philosophy. She received her doctorate in political philosophy from Tel-Aviv university in 2000. She was a fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Human Values, the Institute for Advanced Studies, and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. She recently published the books Free Speech on Campus (Penn Press, 2017) as well as Making Up Our Mind (with Michael Johanek, University of Chicago Press, 2019).  Her next book is Cancel Wars (University of Chicago Press 2022). She chaired Penn’s Committee on Open Expression 2015-2019, chaired Penn Press Faculty Advisory Board, and was a founding member on the board of the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy. In recent years she has offered guidance to many campuses on policy development and responses to controversies surrounding speech.

Video of the Presentation