By Carla Cole, DCI Coordinator
On November 4, 2021, the DCI hosted a deliberative forum entitled, “Free Speech and Inclusion: Are they in conflict or are they complementary? How should they be effectively supported on college campuses?” The forum began with three expert panelists who discussed the tensions between free speech and inclusion, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Dan Layman, associate professor of philosophy at Davidson College. Graham Bullock, associate professor of political science and DCI faculty advisor for the DCI at Davidson College introduced the panel, which included Keith Whittington of Princeton University, Pareena Lawrence of Yale University, and Susan Brison of Princeton University.
The panelists discussed topics such as speaker invitations and the importance of the intent behind them. Professor Whittington suggested that serious scholars who have views that some view as exclusionary ought to have a place to express their views on college campuses, and Professors Brison and Lawrence agreed, adding that timing and context matter. The panelists also agreed that regardless of whom extends an invitation, everyone should thoroughly consider the purpose and impact of the event. The panelists also discussed the tensions between free speech and inclusion, concurring that in at least some cases, conflicts do exist. Each of the panelists spoke about the importance of colleges and universities articulating their mission and considering potential controversies before they arise.
After the panel discussion, participants broke into small groups for deliberations led by DCI trained facilitators. Participants discussed whether free speech and inclusion are in conflict or complimentary, the role college administrators should play in fostering cultures of free speech and inclusion, and how they should be supported simultaneously. Participants also discussed concerns surrounding hate speech, trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, cancel culture, and offensive speech. With over 100 participants, the forum provided an opportunity for diverse perspectives to be presented in engaging, productive dialogues. Participants reported that the forum and subsequent deliberations provided them with a better understanding of free speech and inclusion and the challenges they present.
You may view the panel discussion here.