First Amendment Week 2016
In the first week of March, EKU held its annual celebration of the First Amendment. The Department of Government and the Department of Communication combined to discuss free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and the right of petition across campus for the entire week.
The week kicked off with the Department of Government holding a panel on campus free speech. Dr. Matthew Howell, Dr. Randall Swain, and Dr. Deborah Givins (of Communication, and all three members of the Faculty Senate) discussed the past year in campus speech. The conversation started with a policy at EKU, which was recently brought to the attention of the faculty and then eliminated, that required outside speakers to EKU have a large insurance policy in case something happened during their talk. From there, the conversation discussed the controversies at Yale and University of Missouri -with the added benefit that several people in the room at colleagues at Mizzou who provided additional context -and concluded with more general discussions of the climate of political speech in America today.
Tuesday, Dr. Daniel Bennett organized a panel with Dr. Howell and Dr. Meena Mohanty to discuss the current US Supreme Court docket on the First Amendment. The Court is in the process of deciding cases involving the ability of local governments to control political speech by their employees, and whether a First Amendment claim can be raised when the expression is not speaking. It is also hearing cases on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's insurance mandate on religious organizations and on the Constitutionality of forcing people to use labor union representation when the worker is opposed to the labor union's negotiating position. The conversation also discussed the effects of Justice Antonin Scalia's recent death which has left many of these cases likely deadlocks, which will either be sent back to lower courts, held over for another term, or even if decided, will surely lead to another case once a new justice is confirmed.
Also on Tuesday, Communications hosted a poster session from their Advocacy and Opposition class on the question of whether Steven Avery (the subject of Netflix's Making a Murderer) deserves a new trial.
The week concluded with the annual "No Free Lunch" in the Jaggers Room of Middle Powell, and with the keynote address, given as part of the Chautauqua Lecture Series: "What if we had a real conversation about hate in America?"
We look forward to next year's celebrations.
Published on March 11, 2016