In December 2019, the University of California (UC) National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement published its first edition of Speech Spotlight, a new publication about First Amendment-related issues in higher education.
The platform is designed to highlight different challenges surrounding freedom of expression on college campuses and share a variety of perspectives on these issues, according to Michelle Deutchman, JD, executive director of the center. The goal is to provide readers with multiple sides of an argument as well as practical tools to move forward in considering and discussing these topics.
“There’s a lot of theoretical, high-level discussion [about free speech on campus] that is very interesting,” Deutchman says. “But from my experience, people really want help on the ground about how to think through and synthesize these issues and what to do if they want to start making changes on their campuses.”
The first edition of Speech Spotlight analyzes bias response teams and how institutions can support an open exchange of ideas while upholding values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is available for free at freespeechcenter.universityofcalifornia.edu.
The publication does not have a set schedule, as it is intended to unfold organically as different arguments around freedom of expression become part of the national conversation. Future topics could include the renaming of campus buildings that are named for controversial historical figures or exploring what campuses are doing to encourage student civic engagement in an election year, Deutchman says.
The UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement was founded in 2017 in response to current events on college campuses across the country. In addition to Speech Spotlight, it supports a national fellows program, a grant program, and an annual conference.
Ginger O’Donnell is the assistant editor of INSIGHT Into Diversity. This article ran in the March 2020 issue.