History department hosting free speech event

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  • The history department will be holding a talk on free speech in relation to the constitution on Nov. 20. 

Rachel Adams

The Georgia Southern University History Department is holding a panel on the topic of free speech on college campuses on Wednesday, November 20.

The panel, Free Speech: In the Constitution and on Campus, will include three speakers and students who attend will learn about the history of protected speech in the United States and what that means on a college campus.

The speakers at the panel are History professors Johnathan O’Neill and Alan Downs as well as University Executive Counsel Maura Copeland.

Alan Downs, associate professor of history, said in an email that he plans to speak about the history of the free speech movement on university campuses. 

“I’m hoping that those who attended the teach-in on book burning and the upcoming program on free speech will have a better sense of context when thinking about or exercising their first amendment rights,” Downs said.

Downs also said he taught an FYE class at GS for over eleven years on the topic of free speech. 

“It was a popular and fun course to teach and we always had good discussions on controversial issues,” he said, “one of the points that I tried to stress, however, is that with free speech comes responsibility. Having the right to do or act in a certain way does not always make it the best or wisest course of action for achieving your desired goal.”

Maura Copeland, Executive Counsel for GS, said that she plans to speak about the current state of the law regarding free speech, specifically on college campuses.

“It is critical for our campus communities to understand what makes speech ‘protected’ or ‘unprotected’ under the First Amendment and what those designations mean in terms of the ways Georgia Southern, as a public university, is able to respond,” Copeland said. “The more we understand about what a public university can and can’t do in a given situation, the faster we can foster a welcoming environment and make real, lasting, effective change to achieve true inclusive excellence.”

Free Speech: In the Constitution and on Campus will take place at 5:30 p.m. in the Arts Building room 2071.

Rachel Adams, The George-Anne News Reporter, gaeditor@georgiasouthern.edu