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Where is the line drawn?

Legal experts debate the extent of First Amendment protections on college campuses.

Should First Amendment rights of members of university communities be constrained if their speech undermines the mission of the university? That question will be the subject of the 35th Annual Jefferson B. Fordham Debate on Nov. 15, sponsored by the S.J. Quinney College of Law.

The debate begins at 5 p.m, with a reception to follow at 6:30 p.m., in the moot courtroom on the sixth floor of the law school, 383 S. University Street. It also will be streamed live on the law school’s YouTube channel.

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is requested. Please register here.

Free speech issues have erupted on college campuses nationwide, sparking conversation about the role of free speech and the protections of First Amendment rights on campuses, particularly at state institutions. Controversial speakers are supported by arguments promoting the broad and equal protections of the First Amendment while critics cite the disruptive effect of such speakers on campus and the accompanying risks to safety and property. How should universities respond to highly sensitive free speech dilemmas?

Lyrissa Lidsky

Lyrissa Lidsky of the University of Missouri and Robert Post of Yale University will debate the question of whether the First Amendment rights of members of university communities may be constrained when their speech undermines the educational or research missions of the university. The debate will be moderated by U law professor RonNell Andersen Jones.

Lidsky is the dean and Judge C.A. Leedy Professor of Law at the University of Missouri School of Law
 and an expert in First Amendment issues in social media and other online contexts. She is the author of an article in California Law Review titled “#I  U: Considering the Context of Online Threats.” Her work has been cited in courts throughout the United States and internationally.

Robert Post

Post served as the dean of Yale Law School from 2009 to 2017 and is an expert on constitutional law, equal protection, and First Amendment issues. He is the author of two books on academic freedom. In a forthcoming book, Post examines the claim of free speech suppression by universities. Post asserts that speech at universities must be regulated to attain the ends of education and that the controversy is about higher education and not First Amendment rights.

Andersen Jones is a former newspaper reporter and editor and an expert in media, social media and First Amendment issues. Her recent scholarship focuses on the framing of the media as an enemy of the people.

The Fordham Debate is named in honor of Professor Jefferson B. Fordham, an outstanding legal scholar and defender of individual and civil rights who joined the University of Utah College of Law faculty in 1972. The annual debate addresses relevant contemporary public policy and legal issues.