College campus free speech ‘enormously difficult,’ UC leaders appointed to ‘understand’

UC President Janet Napolitano. Photo courtesy University of California

UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman and former law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky were chosen to help lead a new University of California organization focused on free speech issues, it was announced Thursday.

The National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement in Washington, D.C., will begin with creating a fellowship program.

“Few issues today are more timely, or more challenging, than free speech on our nation’s college campuses,” said UC President Janet Napolitano, who will chair the organization.

Gillman and Chemerinsky, who co-authored “Free Speech on Campus,” will co-chair the organization’s advisory board.

“Campuses across the country are confronting enormously difficult issues concerning freedom of speech and how to facilitate constructive civil engagement for students and faculty,” said Chemerinsky, who now serves as dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law.

“We need to research, educate, listen to and understand each other,” he said. “It is hard to imagine social progress anywhere that wasn’t dependent on freedom of speech.

“The creation of this center comes at a critical time, not only for higher education, but for our country as a whole.” Chemerinsky said. “Through our research and years of teaching in this area, Erwin and I have seen the growing imperative to improve understanding of free speech issues. That’s why this center is such an exciting development.”

The fellows picked for the program will spend up to a year researching free-speech issues, culminating with a national conference next year that will explore the topic further.

–City News Service