The importance of free speech on college campuses is the topic of the first two speakers of The Lafayette Symposium, a new lecture series inspired to tackle hot button issues from diverse points of view.
And that’s where it gets interesting. While both University of Pennsylvania Professor Sigal Ben-Porath, who is speaking on Thursday, Jan. 25, and Princeton University Professor Keith E. Whittington, on deck for Feb. 8, believe the open exchange of ideas is crucial to the intellectual integrity of an institution, they differ on whether expression should be regulated.
Ben-Porath, in her new book, Free Speech on Campus, argues campuses should not only affirm free speech but provide an inclusive environment that supports the equal participation of vulnerable groups in academic life. That ideal hinges on the willingness of colleges and universities to invest in a diverse student body and faculty, says Ben-Porath, professor of Education, Political Science, and Philosophy at Penn, as well as executive committee member of the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy.
“When you do that, then I think more students will be willing to listen to a diversity of opinions because this will then truly be an intellectual exchange,” she says.
Whittington, on the other hand, believes nothing is more important than free speech as it’s the lifeblood of a college. In his latest book, Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech, Whittington, Princeton’s William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics, describes the dangers of empowering campus censors to limit speech and enforce orthodoxy. He explores tough topics such as trigger issues, safe spaces, hate speech, disruptive protests, speaker disinvitations, use of social media by faculty, and academic politics.
The goal of The Lafayette Symposium is to explore different conceptions of justice, freedom, individual rights, and communal responsibilities through talks, panel discussions, and debates by speakers who advocate opposing policies or come from differing ideologies.
Lectures by both Ben-Porath and Whittington are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Colton Chapel on their respective dates.