University of Georgia students talk speech on campus

First Amendment Specialist Kevin Goldberg

By Tristiaña Hinton

Eighty students joined the Freedom Forum at the University of Georgia on Sept. 8 to talk about free speech on college campuses. They got to the heart of free speech issues college students face every day during a roundtable talk.

In our most recent Where America Stands survey, 64 percent of Americans said they believe college campuses should be places that foster a free exchange of ideas, even if the ideas are offensive to some.

Yet more than a third of the students who joined us had self-censored their speech either online or in-person.

During the hour, students heard from First Amendment expert Kevin Goldberg who shared some important information about the First Amendment and how it shows up in their lives.

“The First Amendment is a framework through which we can engage, discuss and debate openly and robustly in pursuit of the common good, as democracy dictates,” he explained at the start of the program.

Using a hypothetical on-campus scenario, students took on different personas of people affected by speech deemed controversial. Students shared their thoughts and opinions on the First Amendment and free speech and heard from people who had different ideas and backgrounds.

After speaking at their tables, students shared conclusions their teams had drawn and how they got there.

Despite being presented with the exact same scenario and options, every group of students came up with different responses.

“I learned that there is no right answer,” one student commented.

Special guest 11Alive News anchor Jennifer Bellamy spoke about the importance of being open to the perspectives of people who do not agree with you.

“If you’re looking to have a genuine conversation, doing it from a place of respect and make sure you’re not being antagonistic or nasty to others is a way to make sure that you continue to have an exchange of ideas, which is what we typically would like to see.”

Additional stops on the Freedom Forum campus tour include the University of South Dakota’s Dakota Days celebrations on Oct. 22 and Morgan State University on Nov. 15.

Tristiaña Hinton is senior content producer for the Freedom Forum.

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