March 28, 2016
CUA Law Professor Marshall Breger moderated a panel titled First Amendment on College Campuses: Speech, Religion, Sexuality, Gender at the Knight Conference Center, Newseum on March 21. The event was co-sponored by The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, Moment Magazine, and the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute. The Catholic University of America has an education partnership with the Reglious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute. See below for an overview of the panel discussion.

First Amendment on College Campuses: Speech, Religion, Sexuality, Gender

On Monday evening March 21 the NEWSEUM sponsored a panel on the "First Amendment on College Campuses: Speech, Religion, Sexuality,Gender." The panel was moderated by Professor Marshall Breger of the Columbus School of Law. Panelists included Eugene Volokh (Professor of Law at UCLA), Greg Lukianoff (attorney and the president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)), Hannah Rosin (co-host of the NPR show Invisibilia and a contributing editor for the Atlantic), Kim Colbey (director of the Christian Legal Society' s Center for Law and Religious Freedom), and Heather Weaver (senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief).

In a keynote, Eugene Volokh noted that ten or fifteen years ago when he first became aware of restrictions on college speech through speech codes, he thought of them as outliers and not much of a big deal. Now he recognizes that free speech on campus is seriously challenged. Campus administrators are choosing to limit speech on a regular basis. In part, they are doing so because of pressure from from the federal government which has used an expanded definition of a "hostile learning environment" as justification to limit campus speech. Even more concerning, as the panel pointed out, many student groups support these restrictions.

After discussing recent constraints to constrain campus speech such as "free speech zones", "trigger warnings" and a demand for "safe spaces," the panel moderated by Professor Breger focused on cultural changes in the United States. These changes have lead to a demand for sensitivity to feelings and respect and a demand for a safe and comfortable space rather than the view that free speech is the first freedom.

The panel also discussed the use of federal statutes, which protect students form a "hostile learning envirornment" and how these statutes are being used to constrain speech and religious activity on campus.