College of Humanities Perspectives Series to spotlight free speech on college campuses

Fearless Inquiries Project

The College of Humanities' inaugural Perspectives Series will explore the topic of free speech on college campuses.

The April 26 event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., will feature speakers from academia, journalism and nonprofit organizations addressing the questions "How Free is Speech on Campus, and Does it Matter?" The event will be moderated by Keith Allred, executive director of the University of Arizona's National Institute for Civil Discourse.

The event will be livestreamed, with a discussion guide available, said Alain-Philippe Durand, Dorrance Dean of the College of Humanities. The Perspectives Series begins at 3 p.m. Arizona time.

"What are the unique ways the humanities can inform this conversation around free speech on college campuses? This is often framed around legal or political arguments, but the humanities perspective is an intriguing and distinct one that can bring new knowledge and understanding to the topic," Durand said. "Our hope is this connects to bigger questions about the ways people interact within a culture and how we overcome differences."

Designed to bring together thought leaders representing a variety of viewpoints, the Perspectives Series aims to provide an in-depth and multifaceted discussion of pressing issues and possible new solutions. Speakers present a wide range of ideas and opinions, with audience members encouraged to challenge their own ideas as they consider a variety of other perspectives, Durand said.

The speakers at the inaugural event include:

  • Jeff Chang is a leader in racial justice movements and speaks and writes frequently on history, culture, politics and music. He has experience leading student-centered programs at Stanford as executive director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts. He is currently a senior adviser to Race Forward, a national policy and movement-building nonprofit organization focused on racial justice. 
  • Michelle Deutchman is executive director of the University of California's National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, working across all 10 University of California campuses to shape and respond to national and campus discourse regarding free speech. A lecturer in law at UCLA, she previously served as western states counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, training administrators and law enforcement officers in safeguarding free speech while maintaining inclusive environments on campus. 
  • Bill Kristol is a journalist and commentator for national news networks, who speaks on a wide range of topics including foreign policy, constitutional law and political philosophy. He was the founder and editor-at-large of The Weekly Standard and is currently editor-at-large of The Bulwark. Before leading The Weekly Standard, Kristol led the Project for the Republican Future. He has hosted many conversations on his video platform "Conversations with Bill Kristol" on free speech.

"The experts we've invited for this inaugural Perspectives Series are widely respected and showcase a great breadth of viewpoints. We're excited to showcase these speakers and how the humanities is essential in creating new insights, connections and solutions," Durand said. "We're providing a thoughtful way for the campus community and beyond to approach this complex topic."

UArizona will also host Humanities Leadership Summit in D.C.

The Perspectives Series is part of the Fearless Inquiries Project, an ongoing, flagship effort in the UArizona College of Humanities aimed at catalyzing a national culture that prizes open discussion, independent judgement and the questioning of assumptions. The project is supported by a gift of $5.4 million from alumni Jacquelynn and Bennett Dorrance to endow the deanship of the College of Humanities.

"People see the humanities as a way to think through different challenges and find answers and solutions in new ways," Durand said. "Our goals are to show the power of the humanities to get these kinds of conversations started, to open people's minds to new perspectives and concepts, and to provide a framework for synthesizing and understanding differing viewpoints."

The Fearless Inquiries Project also includes faculty awards for research and teaching. The inaugural Dorrance Dean's Award for Opening the Canon was awarded to Jacqueline Barrios, assistant professor in the Department of Public and Applied Humanities. And the Dorrance Dean's Award for Research & Entrepreneurialism went to Kristy Slominski, assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Classics.

In addition to the Perspectives Series, the College of Humanities will host a Humanities Leadership Summit on April 27, with featured guests Shelly C. Lowe, a UArizona alumna who was recently appointed chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities; Robert B. Townsend, who oversees humanities, arts and culture programs for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and leadership from other humanities programs around the country. The summit will take place at the University of Arizona Washington, D.C. Center for Outreach & Collaboration.

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