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2018 Worldviews Lecture on Media and Higher Education


Free Speech on Campus: Challenge for Democratic Values


APRIL 5, 2018  1:30 pm



Download Dr. Ben-Porath's powerpoint slides here


On Thursday, April 5, 2018 the Fourth Annual Worldviews Lecture featured Dr. Sigal Ben-Porath and her insights on Free Speech on Campus: Challenge for Democratic Values. The Worldviews Lecture is organized by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and the Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. It is made possible with the generous support of the  University World News, Inside Higher Ed, and Academica Group.


Following the lecture, a panel of distinguished scholars joined Dr. Ben-Porath for discussion.


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Dr. Sigal Ben-Porath

Sigal Ben-Porath received her doctorate in political philosophy from Tel Aviv University in 2000, after which she joined Princeton University’s Center for Human Values as a post-doctoral fellow. In 2004, she moved to the University of Pennsylvania where she is currently a professor of education, philosophy, and political science. Her most recent book is Free Speech on Campus (Penn Press, 2017), and her previous books include Citizenship under Fire: Democratic Education in Times of Conflict (2006) and Tough Choices (2010), both from Princeton University Press. Sigal serves on the board of The Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy, as well as the Teachers Institute of Philadelphia. She has been chairing the University of Pennsylvania’s Committee on Open Expression since 2015.


Free Speech on Campus: Challenge for Democratic Values

Over the last few years many campuses became embroiled in free speech controversies. In her recent book, Free Speech on Campus, Dr. Sigal Ben-Porath suggests that campuses need to reaffirm their commitment to free speech and to inclusion, and to be clear about how both are tightly linked to their core mission.

Dr. Ben-Porath's Worldviews talk will present the three levels of the Free Speech debate:

Substance: what can we talk about, and are there things we cannot or should not say? Must universities stay neutral in their position campus talks and speakers?

Impact: are certain views too hurtful to voice, such that they must be silenced to avoid negative psychological or social consequences? Are universities practicing such ‘considerate silencing’?

Public perception: When speech events flare into the media, they are often inaccurately portrayed and as a result cannot be effectively addressed. Universities in fact practice free speech and open inquiry in their everyday practice, even as they have aspects that should be improved. Can universities contribute to the conversation such that the public understanding of their work corresponds with the mission and practice of the higher education sector? Ben-Porath offers a clear framing for understanding current free speech tensions and for responding to them in the classroom, in students' social associations and clubs, and in public events on campus, as well as in the public debate.





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Paul Axelrod is a retired York University professor and former dean of York’s Faculty of Education. He has written widely on the history and policy development of schooling and higher education. Paul is the author or editor of nine books, including Values in Conflict: The University, the Marketplace, and the Trials of Liberal Education; The Promise of Schooling, Education in Canada, 1800-1914; and Making Policy in Turbulent Times: Challenges and Prospects for Higher Education (co-editor).



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Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity issues for the Toronto Star, focussing on intersections of race, ethnicity, and gender. Her writing aims to shine an uncomfortable spotlight on how unequally we treat those who live in our societies, even as we claim lofty egalitarianism. Shree is a seasoned international journalist who has worked in leading newsrooms in Bangalore, Mumbai, Singapore, and Toronto. 




Scott Jasick Head ShotScott Jaschik is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs, and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon. He serves on the board of the Education Writers Association.




Jasmine Zeen Head Shot


Jasmin Zine is a professor of Sociology and the Muslim Studies Option at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her research and teaching interests lie in the areas of critical Muslim studies, Islamophobia studies, race/anti-racism, postcolonial / anti-colonial studies, social justice education, decolonizing research, and critical ethnography. Her books include: Canadian Islamic Schools: Unraveling the Politics of Faith, Gender, Knowledge and Identity (2008, University of Toronto Press), the edited collection, Islam in the Hinterlands: Muslim Cultural Politics in Canada (2012, University of British Columbia Press), and a co-edited book with Lisa K. Taylor, Muslim Women, Transnational Feminism and the Ethics of Pedagogy: Contested Imaginaries in post-9/11 Cultural Practice (2014, Routledge Press).





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