Guest Chancellor to Address ‘Free Speech on Campus’

Chancellor Howard Gillman, environmental portrait
UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman, co-author of "Free Speech on Campus."

How can a university provide a supportive, nondiscriminatory, inclusive learning environment while still protecting free speech? UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman tackled that question in a recent book, and he will come to UC Davis next week to discuss the topic in a public lecture (it will also be livestreamed).


WHAT: Free Speech on Campus with Howard Gillman, chancellor, UC Irvine

WHEN: 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4

WHERE: Multipurpose room, Student Community Center

Free and open to the public. RSVPs are requested and can be arranged online.  

Refreshments will be provided.


Sponsored by Gary S. May as a chancellor’s special event, Gillman’s presentation is one of four programs of campuswide interest scheduled so far in this new academic year. May has also announced Chancellor’s Colloquia in fall and spring quarters, and the campus is organizing a Police Town Hall in mid-October. See details below. 

Gilman co-wrote Free Speech on Campus with Erwin Chemerinsky, who, at the time served as dean of the UC Irvine School of Law and who now serves as dean of the law school at UC Berkeley.

In a joint lecture by the authors last year, Gilman said: “For higher education there must be one anchoring principle, and for us that principle is any idea must be expressible on a campus without fear for censorship or punishment.”

He noted that instructors’ freedom is not as broad, because faculty members work in the “professional zone” of free speech, which he said is always linked to norms of professional competence and integrity — giving universities the right to regulate what can be discussed in class time, and to require a link between the content of class discussion and the course material, for example.

“But, on top of that, as a result of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, an additional zone of free speech was insisted upon correctly: Outside of the professional environment, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement established the proposition that the public spaces in campus should be free for the expression of even unprofessional, uncivil, profane and even hateful points of view.”

But while public spaces remain open to free speech, universities can draw the line at harassment, true threats or other speech acts unprotected by the First Amendment, as well as discrimination that encroaches upon dormitories and classrooms, for example.

The Gillman-Chemerinsky book ends “with an agenda of proactive activity, setting up structures to ensure that acts of discrimination are identified, organizing programs, sensitizing people to the harms of hateful speech, educating a community about what is behind the hate speech that some people insist now needs to come to campus to illuminate the issue rather than to suppress the issue and, most importantly, campuses, even if they find themselves protecting speech that is inconsistent with their values, doesn’t mean that campuses cannot find their voice on those values.”

Gillman’s talk, free and open to the public, is scheduled at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, in the multipurpose room at the Student Community Center. See box above for the RSVP and livestream links.

Upcoming programs

  • Police Town Hall — Communities across the nation are having important conversations about policing in America, and college campuses are uniquely positioned to host meaningful dialog on this topic. This town hall will take the form of a panel discussion (moderated by Dean Kevin R. Johnson of the School of Law focused on identifying the core policing issues on our campus and exploring meaningful pathways to ensure a safe living, learning and working environment for every member of the community. Noon-1:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15, Activities and Recreation Ballroom. People are welcome to bring their lunches; beverages and dessert will be provided. RSVPs are requested and can be arranged online.
  • Chancellor’s Colloquium — Matthew Desmond, professor of sociology, Princeton University, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016), winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, Carnegie Medal and the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction. 5-6 p.m. (with a reception to follow) Monday, Nov. 5, Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. Ticket information will be posted in future editions of Dateline UC Davis.
  • Chancellor’s Colloquium (presented jointly as a UC Davis Forum on the Public University and the Social Good) — Michael Crow, president, Arizona State University. 4-5 p.m. Monday, June 3, Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.

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