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“Skidmore Speaks" examines free speech

October 31, 2018

An artistic depiction of free speech

Veteran journalist  Sanford J. Ungar described a “paradox” in the status of free speech in the United States as Skidmore College opened a four-day series of community conversations probing the significance and bounds of free speech for colleges and communities.

“Speech enjoys greater legal protection in the United States than ever before,” said Ungar, who heads the Free Speech Project at Georgetown University. Yet “the First Amendment is under actual attack.”

Ungar’s wide-ranging talk — “The Paradox of Free Speech in America Today” — was the first event in the Nov. 5-8 series, “Skidmore Speaks: Conversations About the First Amendment and the Meaning of Free Speech.”

Skidmore President Philip A. Glotzbach called free speech "integral to democracy" and said that the United States also carried a "special responsibility."

"We should be modeling for the rest of the world how to deal with controversial issues," Glotzbach said.

As part of the series, prominent journalists and academics are considering challenges associated with free speech on college campuses, questions related to race and privilege, and means of ensuring that colleges present a variety of viewpoints while maintaining an inclusive learning environment.

Speakers also include Wendy Moore of Texas A&M University and Joyce Bell of the University of Minnesota, who study the intersection of race and free speech; Zachary Wood, author of “Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection of Black and White America”; Sigal Ben-Porath, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Free Speech on Campus” and Scott Jaschik, editor and founder of Inside Higher Ed.

A documentary film about free speech by alumna Emily Rizzo and current Skidmore student Sanjna Selvarajan will also be shown as part of the series. The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum will also feature works of art from their collection selected to inspire and challenge ideas and concepts related to free speech. 

 “Free speech is at the heart of Skidmore College’s liberal arts mission. We learn and grow as scholars, citizens and as a college community when we are exposed to a diverse range of perspectives,” said Cerri Banks, dean of students and vice president for student affairs. “‘Skidmore Speaks’ is part of Skidmore’s ongoing efforts to promoting a rich and inclusive campus community, rooted in our deep commitment to freedom of expression, where we learn from diverse perspectives and also understand differences.”

“Skidmore Speaks” is sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Students, the Office of the President and the Tang Teaching Museum. The series is the latest in a number of recent events held at Skidmore to examine questions related to free speech.

For more information about “Skidmore Speaks” and to register for events, please visit


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