UO Roundtable | Freedom of Expression

Well, thank you, everybody, for being here today
and talking about the Freedom of Expression series. So, President Schill, what inspired you to ask
Deans Burke and Molleda to create a Freedom of Expression series? So, we had been thinking about this over the
summer of last year as freedom of expression has become a much hotter issue on campus. And what we were seeing during that period
was that the First Amendment and values of freedom of expression were being used by both the
right and the left in ways that I felt were harmful to universities. And so one of the things that we wanted to
do was to have a discussion on campus. We wanted to handle and talk about freedom
of expression in a way that sort of met the ideals of the university which is informed
debate. So, that was the reason why we went ahead and
did it. And I’ve been just delighted with the events. I’ve attended many of them and they’ve just been really wonderful. What did you take away from the Freedom of
Expression events? What surprised you and what encouraged you? You know what I like about the series is that it
went beyond speakers. We had workshops, art exhibits, debates, roundtables. This way we engage the idea of freedom of expression
from different perspectives. Athletics, the arts, the libraries, the schools and colleges. So, I participated on a panel with students
and professors. And in this panel it was really surprising to talk about freedom of speech
and some of our fears that we have. It’s not something we talk about, really. And
just seeing, like the other students have the same fear of whatever you post on social media, is it ever going to get back to you. Or if you have controversial political views
you sort of are scared of what to post or what to say to people. And it was sort of refreshing thinking, “OK, I’m
not the only one that has to mentally go through a filter every time like I type a text message
or every time we speak to someone I don’t really know. Or every time I want to post something on social
media.” I’m very self-conscious about that,
especially data online. And seeing that other students have the same fears and teachers as well. I was surprised to hear some of the stories
in our discussion about how fear to speak up and consequently self censor. Not only in public
spaces but also in private spaces such as in family gatherings or, for example, a story I remember from one of the
participants was that she used to carpool with friends to work
and suddenly she found that her friends held opinions, political opinions, and supported
Donald Trump. Which she didn’t. And then she couldn’t speak up against them. So she had to stop carpooling to work. See, and that is just so troubling, right, because
not only on the personal side they can’t do it with family and friends but the whole purpose
of a university is knowledge and becoming more aware of other people’s arguments. And so if people can’t talk about something as
elemental and important as the policies of the president of the United States how do
we ever mend the divide in our country, or all the divides in our country? Because, really, it’s only through understanding
that we can come to some resolution. This series was one way to encourage people
to talk to each other and not to just take oppositional standpoints of yelling at each
other or interrupting each other or anything like that. I think what’s interesting, too, is that sometimes
people feel that not listening to other people’s opinions makes them disappear. Giving everybody an equal platform
to speak up. It’s a good way to generate debate. It’s a good way to acknowledge that there
are people that have different points of view. What I learned, too, is just like asking the
question of what are you are afraid to talk about, what are your sincere opinions that you’re holding back because of current events? Having that sincere place of you being like, “It’s
okay for you to say whatever you want to say. I just want to listen.” It makes it so people are much more open and
honest and I think that way if you want to change someone’s point of view it’s a lot
easier doing it with someone that’s listening rather than someone that you don’t let them speak,
or you don’t even hear out what they have to say. I mean I might be biased because I’m a history
major, but I think that some of this is that we need to acknowledge past histories of people
feeling unheard, of systematic oppression, of challenges that I think end up
coming into the debate actually with a student who may not be
the representative of that. But they end up being kind of the representative
in that discussion. So if you have a college Democrat and a college
Republican you may end up getting a deep history in that discussion when it’s not actually
what the other student is trying to say or representative of that. So I think sometimes it’s also just acknowledging
that this country has a deep history that is sometimes, that is problematic. And if we can acknowledge that then potentially
that doesn’t get as integrated into the discussion that’s happening between two students and not
between two histories and two legacies of what those students are representing in that
individual moment where they’re talking. But I think that that shuts down the conversation
sometimes when that…I have to represent Asian Americans or when I have to represent Hawaii people in the discussion as opposed to just being able to represent what my sliver of
a viewpoint is based on my background as those things. I’m just wondering if anybody learned a new
way of looking at themselves and realizing how they approach things sometimes. after going to these events. I think I did. It wasn’t just these events. It was the whole sort of outcome of the year
and that was that you can create a situation, you can create a situation where everybody
feels that they can speak but sometimes you have to take specific actions
to empower them to speak. For example, you know I had always thought
that every, everyone on campus was free to talk about what concerned them and that
there were multiplicity of views and everybody was getting their views out well. And then when it came time for the students
who went under the banner of The Collective to come in and talk they felt they were totally
voiceless. And and I hadn’t ever understood that to be
the case. And so it helped me understand that for a group
of students they feel that there is not a really good way for them to get their
views across. And I think again that points to the need
for us as a university to try to be even more inclusive and to try to take steps to provide
ways for people to talk and get points of view across. Things like the series and things
that we maybe thinking about for next year. For me I learned that I wasn’t looking at
things in other people’s perspectives and from listening to other people’s stories, I realized that I needed to step outside sometimes
and put myself in their position. Besides that going the School of Journalism
and realizing that so many people only talk about one side and we don’t talk about two sides and realizing
that maybe that’s my fault, in a way, because I’m not bringing it up, but I really could. even if I am on one side. And it’s interesting because
the foundation of journalism is to be able to present both sides of the debate.
Especially for journalism students to understand the responsibility they have to, you know, find
sources that express different point of views and allow the citizens, or the reader, or the listener, to make their own mind. So probably something that we need to reinforce
in this school. You know one thing you said that I thought
was really interesting and I learned from the discussion was, you know, taking yourself
out of your own situation and trying to hear it from other people’s positions. And you know he talked about it. There’s this
principle in freedom of speech that you can’t stop speech unless there’s, within certain
exceptions, and one of the exceptions is whether it’s a true harm. And typically we think of that as violence
as the government can say you can’t speak if it’s going to lead to violence or threats
of violence. And what he tried to say was sometimes racist
thought or racist expressions actually do psychological harm to the individuals. And that’s been something that that might
characterized, that could be characterized as a true threat to that person’s personality and
being. And I thought that was a really interesting argument. It made me think a lot and made me
talk to other people a lot. And it came out of these sessions. So what is the university’s role and responsibility
in creating an environment where students and members of the community, the campus community, can freely express themselves? I think it’s twofold. I think the university needs to create the
space for these discussions to happen. Sort of like what the Freedom of Expression series
did. But also this needs to be fostered in the
classroom and across departments. And then the second part of that is we need
to help students to have the tools to have these discussions. So whether that’s seeing social media as a
tool for having a voice but also understanding how to use that tool properly and safely or
helping people to foster interpersonal skills that they might have not developed as much
with growing up in the Internet age. But I think the university has to both create
the environment but also help students to know how to have a voice in that environment
and also how to hear other voices that are going to be in the conversation as we become
a more diverse and inclusive community. And I think it’s so much more helpful to have
a platform where both sides can speak and have our voices heard and be open and not
so hateful towards each other. And being, “I don’t want to hear your opinions because
I don’t agree with them.” Instead of just coming to the “OK we’re not going to speak with each
other but let’s just have the vote speak for themselves.” It’s so much more helpful to have that platform. And I feel that the university should try
to be that space where both people can come and both groups can come to speak. Well, I think the problem sometimes we have-
We end up having violence is because certain groups of people, or certain points of view,
are not given enough space or enough attention and when somebody is not heard then they resort
to means that are harmful to people. So it’s important that we continue this culture
of engaging with whatever viewpoints people have and continue the dialogue in the conversation
about freedom of speech. What we need to do is make sure that the university,
as university, doesn’t step in and dictate a particular viewpoint or, you know, but makes it
safe for everyone to have their own viewpoint. And so we need to do as a university is to
make… One of our central obligations for you but
also to society is to help you develop the skill of critical thinking. I think that there needs to be a reorientation
towards community versus individual. And I think that that will get to some of these
challenges about like how do we allow voices to be in the conversation. If you’re thinking about this as the collective
community in that my voice can provide something to something greater that ideally the person
who is speaking is keeping in mind how their views might affect other students and ideally
the other students in the conversation are thinking I need to hear them because they’re
a part of this community. But that part of what U of O can do is kind of
pivot towards that orientation to say we’re here for this collective goal of learning
together. But again I think if we can orient towards
community within the student body you’ll hear those voices come up and you’ll be able to
see people having discussions across political lines and across polarized lines. Great point. This is an ongoing process. You know, this series happening at a time
frame, but this is just the beginning of the conversation. This is not going to stop here. The reality that the university and everyone
else in the schools and colleges and units on campus need to continue facilitating
these type of conversations in the classroom and outside the classroom, through events,
through demonstrations and through open forum and also through debates and roundtables like this one. I’m encouraged
by what we have accomplished so far but I know that we still need to accomplish a
great deal. We need to be conscious that this is an ongoing
process and we need to allow these conversations to happen more and more. Well, thank you everybody for coming together
today. I feel like we’ve made some progress and I
feel like we just keep on doing that. It helps so much to share ideas and share
experiences. So, thank you for coming.

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