2018-19 Academic Theme: Freedom of Speech

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Since its inception in 1994, the University of Maine at Augusta theme has brought our communities together for numerous activities and programs. Beginning in 2006, an annual colloquium of faculty members has chosen the theme and a corresponding reading to share with other faculty, students, staff, and the larger community. We feature discussions in and outside of our classes and organize events in order to promote larger conversations about the theme. These events have provided a platform for multiple voices to be heard on such significant topics as health and social justice, immigration, and bioethics.

The UMA Colloquium is pleased to announce that the 2017-2018 academic theme is FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the ability of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or sanction. Freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In the United States, freedom of speech and expression is strongly protected from government restrictions by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, many state constitutions, and state and federal laws.

According to the United States Supreme Court,
Freedom of speech includes the right:

  • Not to speak (specifically, the right not to salute the flag).
    • West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).
  • Of students to wear black armbands to school to protest a war (“Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”).
    • Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).
  • To use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages.
    • Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).
  • To contribute money (under certain circumstances) to political campaigns.
    • Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976).
  • To advertise commercial products and professional services (with some restrictions).
    • Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748 (1976); Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977).
  • To engage in symbolic speech, (e.g., burning the flag in protest).
    • Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989); United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).

Freedom of speech does not include the right:

  • To incite actions that would harm others (e.g., “[S]hout[ing] ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”).
    • Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).
  • To make or distribute obscene materials.
    • Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957).
  • To burn draft cards as an anti-war protest.
    • United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).
  • To permit students to print articles in a school newspaper over the objections of the school administration.
    • Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).
  • Of students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event.
    • Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).
  • Of students to advocate illegal drug use at a school-sponsored event.
    • Morse v. Frederick, __ U.S. __ (2007).

(For more information: http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/about-educational-outreach/activity-resources/what-does ).

The Academic Theme is addressed at Convocation in the fall and then through the spring INT/HON seminar, culminating at the UMA Student Research Conference in April. Another component of this year’s academic theme will be the adoption of a single theme-related book by a number of classes across the curriculum: Free Speech for Me but Not for Thee, by Nat Hentoff.

Thanks to all the faculty colloquium participants this year: Robert Bernheim, Norma Bisulca , James Cook, Matt Dube, Les French, Lorien Lake-Corral, Liz Powers, Sharon Sawyer, Tim Surette, Ellen Taylor.

Sincerely,
Lorien Lake-Corral
2018 Colloquium Chair