Free Speech Symposium to Tackle Difficult Conversations

The American Flag waves in the wind against a bright blue sky.
UAlbany is hosting a free speech forum on Sept. 14 in honor of Constitution Day. (UAlbany Digital Media)

By Michael Parker

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 5, 2023) — The University at Albany, Albany Law School and UAlbany’s New York State Writers Institute are hosting a free speech symposium designed to help students, faculty and staff navigate conversations about challenging issues.

The symposium, Free Speech and Civil Discourse: Our Rights, Our Responsibilities, will be held in UAlbany’s Campus Center on Sept. 14, followed by a forum with the Constructive Dialogue Institute for student leaders on Sept. 15.

The discussions serve as a prelude to Constitution Day (Sept. 17), as faculty, students, guests and members of the UAlbany and Albany Law School communities gather to consider the intersection of free speech, advocacy, civil discourse and knowledge.

“On college campuses over the past decade, visiting speakers and organizations have often resulted in division, protest and anger. Our University has been no exception to these occurrences,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez. “Engaging our community and initiating a dialogue by hosting this symposium is one of our ways forward. Our goal is to bring students, faculty and staff together to listen and learn, to discuss free speech and civil discourse in an open environment, and to provide our community with tools to navigate difficult conversations.”

Nadine Strossen, professor emerita at New York Law School, former long-time president of the ACLU, and author of Hate: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship, will provide the morning keynote address on Sept. 14.

In the evening, Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America and author of Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All, will deliver a second keynote address. Both speakers have been arranged through the New York State Writers Institute.

“Free speech is central to a vibrant campus, one that honors inquiry and values inclusion, and ensures a platform for all voices, identities and perspectives,” said Michael Christakis, UAlbany’s vice president for student affairs. “We are delighted to welcome distinguished speakers to campus and to provide this important forum for students, faculty and community members to discuss this critical right, guaranteed by our Constitution.”

Among the topics of discussion are the history and legal limits of free speech, the place for debate and civil discourse, the role of misinformation and social media, banned books and academic freedom. Albany Law School will provide legal scholars and researchers to take part in the conversation.

A complete agenda is available on the symposium website.

All events are free and open to the UAlbany community and the public. Registration is available here.