GAMBIER — What constitutes hate speech, and should it be banned? Is political correctness stifling speech? What role does free speech play in a civil society?

These questions and more will be dissected during a Sept. 27-28 conference hosted by Kenyon College’s Center for the Study of American Democracy. Titled “Free Speech, Civil Discourse,” the event will feature panel discussions and lectures with academics and politicians from across the ideological spectrum. All events are free, and the public is welcome to attend.

The title of the conference “speaks its own importance,” said Tom Karako, director of CSAD. “Every day, we see something in the news about free speech, the state of discourse on campuses around the country, the tone of political exchange more broadly. Free speech is at the foundation of liberal democracy, but civility is also an element of a self-government.”

Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center, will deliver the conference’s keynote address, “Free Speech and the Constitution,” on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Rosse Hall, 105 College Drive. Rosen also is a professor at the George Washington University Law School, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing editor for the Atlantic.

On Thursday, Sept. 28, at 7:15 p.m. in Rosse Hall, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean will participate in the conference’s closing panel, titled “Civil Discourse and America.” Dean, who also served as chair of the Democratic National Committee, will be joined by Harvard University psychologist, linguist and popular science author Steven Pinker and Heather MacDonald, a conservative columnist at the Manhattan Institute. Dean recently made headlines for claiming that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not protect hate speech, contrary to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many conference events will be livestreamed, and the discussion can be followed on Twitter via #KenyonCSAD. Other conference events will be held in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater, 101 1/2 College Drive, and include:

•Sept. 27, 4 p.m., “Candor, Criticism and the Foundations of a Free Society”;

•Sept. 28, 9:30 a.m., “Open Discourse and Liberal Education”; at 11:10 a.m., “Is Free Speech the Enemy of Civil Society?”; at 1:30 p.m., “Hate Speech and the Limits of Free Expression”; and at 3 p.m., “Political Correctness, Microaggressions and the Academy.”

For more information, including a full schedule of events, visit or contact CSAD at 740-427-5423.


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