You are here
Benjamin Houlton, Tessa Hill, Joe Dumit and Veronica Morales talk about science and how they come to the truth during a science round-table on February 22, 2017.
The Dialogue and Discernment series opened Feb. 22 with a roundtable on “Science In the Post-Truth Era,” held in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Free Speech: The Complexities and High Stakes

A public panel discussion with faculty is planned next week on the topic of “Hate Speech, Free Speech, More Speech or Less Speech: The Quad as Free Expression Zone or Safe Space?”

A half-century ago, the University of California became a focal point for passionate and principled activism in defense of such values as peace, civil rights and free speech. Today, UC is again roiled by principled conflict, though now it centers on questions of culture and social justice, including the proper limitations on free speech. This panel discussion aims to provide an opportunity for the UC Davis community to share information and views on free speech; to consider thoughtfully the complexities and high stakes of the free speech question; and to help us begin to move from turbulent division to shared understanding, consensus and cooperation.

The program is the third installment of the new discussion series Dialogue and Discernment, whose faculty-led events are sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor. The series provides opportunities for faculty, staff and students to come together “to discuss the promise and practice of addressing controversial issues through informed and rational dialogue and critical evaluation of ideas.” The first two events, held in February and March, focused on “Science in a Post-Truth Era” and “The Milo Wars: Campus Activism and Freedom of Speech in the Age of Outrage.”

Madhavi Sunder, senior associate dean and professor in the School of Law, will moderate the panel discussion and the dialogue with the audience. Here are the panel members:

  • Alan Brownstein, professor of constitutional law, School of Law
  • Carlton Larson, professor of constitutional law, School of Law
  • Steven White, Capitol Protection Section, California Highway Patrol

The series

The Dialogue and Discernment series offers opportunities for the UC Davis community to come together to discuss the promise and practice of addressing controversial issues through informed and rational dialogue and critical evaluation of ideas. The words “dialogue” and “discernment” in the series title derive, respectively, from the themes of Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter’s 2016 Fall Convocation address and 2016 Fall Commencement address.

What can such dialogue and critical reception achieve that alternative efforts cannot? What are the elements that foster functional dialogue? How can all of us learn to be more-astute interpreters of the ideas we encounter, and how do we evaluate the reliability and credibility of their sources? What role should universities play in advancing functional dialogue and the exercise of discernment? These are among the questions that this series will address.

Typical events will feature a presentation by one or more faculty, students, campus leaders and/or distinguished visitors, followed by a substantial period in which the audience can ask questions and share views. If you would like to submit an idea for a future topic in this series, please write to:

This website includes a calendar of this year’s events, information on past programs, and selected statements on the subject of dialogue written by Interim Chancellor Hexter and other members of the campus community.

Dialogue at UC Davis

Past programs in Dialogue and Discernment