Free Speech Cafes

  • Free Speech cartoon with Uncle Sam

Drop in for informal panel discussions held in the Lee Honors College lounge and other campus locations about free speech rights and responsibilities—no registration necessary! Cafés are hosted by a moderator and 2-3 panelists, who take questions from the audience. All cafes are eligible for Signature credit in the Civic Engagement pathway in ExperienceWMU. Check back soon for more information, or sign up for We Talk event notifications.

Fall cafe TOPICS

Following are some of the topics we are planning for fall cafes. We welcome new ideas, which can be shared via the Contact Us page. More information coming soon!

  • Free speech in K-12
    Public school and campus educators will discuss the free speech rights of K-12 students compared to the free speech rights of college students and the general public.
  • Constitution Day Celebration: September 17
  • Academic freedom and free speech
  • Accommodating safe space for exercising free speech

spring 2022 cafes


Haters gonna hate? Responding intelligently to hate speech

Stop hate speech graphic2 p.m., January 26
Lee Honors College Lounge
Hate speech refers to a broad range of expression of discriminatory hatred towards people. How can we recognize hate speech and how can we better respond to it? Join us for this conversation about the parameters of hate speech, what is and is not covered by U.S. free speech protections, and how to better manage your reactions and responses to hate speech. Moderator and panelists: Jessica Swartz, deputy general counsel, Dr. Candy McCorkle, vice president for diversity and inclusion, and Jennifer Townsend, adjunct professor and executive assistant in the Lee Honors College. Video recording by WMUx. 

Where is the line? Free speech protections vs legitimate threats

Police and protestors in MN3:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 24
Lee Honors College Lounge
What constitutes fair, consistent application of law? Were there true threats in the context of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and the BLM protests in summer 2020? How do national and local law enforcement identify and respond to true threats in our communities? Moderator and panelists: Jessica Swartz, deputy general counsel, Dr. Mark Hurwitz, professor of political science, and Capt. Michelle Caron, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. Video recording by Noah Morris, WMU student videographer/editor and WMUx.

Should money talk? 

Uncle Sam on dollar11 a.m., March 15
Public Media Network broadcast
Campus viewing party
Lee Honors College Room 1024
How has the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in favor of Citizens United changed the political fundraising landscape and impacted elections? Join us for this conversation between Rodericka Applewhaite, senior communications advisor for the Michigan Democratic Party, and Republican political strategist Jason Cabel Roe, moderated by Gordon Evans, WMUK content director. Video recording by Public Media Network. Read more at WMUK.

Who's in control on social?

Cancel Culture image10 a.m., Thursday, April 14
Lee Honors College Lounge
Should Uncle Sam or Mark Zuckerburg have a say in what you post on social media? How is free speech exercised and controlled on social media platforms? What will get you kicked off? WMU's social media manager, Kaitlin Petrillo, and Paula Davis, director of strategic communications, will share examples and ideas on how to express your views without infringing on free speech rights and responsibilities. Video recording by Noah Morris, WMU student videographer/editor and WMUx

Cafe recordings

Who's in control on social?

April 14, 2022
Lee Honors College

Video of We Talk - Who Is In Control

Should money talk?

March 15, 2022
Public Media Network
View program

Where is the line? Free speech protections vs legitimate threats

February 24, 2022
Lee Honors College

Video of Where is the Line

Haters gonna hate? Responding intelligently to hate speech.

January 26, 2022
Lee Honors College

Video of Haters Gonna Hate

Do we have to let them speak here?

November 16, 2021
Bernhard Center Lobby

Free speech on campus

October 2021
Bernhard Center 

Video of Free Speech on Campus

The changing role of media in a free society: listen, learn and speak out

In August 2021, we invited local media representatives to share their views on the role the media plays in civil discourse, free speech and social dynamics in this panel discussion broadcast by Public Media Network on August 18. Stream it here. Panelists: Sue Ellen Christian, moderator, professor of communication and Presidential Innovation Professor; Mickey Ciokajlo, local news editor,; Buddy Hannah, retired radio host, community storyteller; Aya Miller, editor-in-chief, Western Herald.

View program 

Thank you to our Supporters

The We Talk civil discourse initiative and the Free Speech Cafés are supported in part by Heterodox Academy. The ability for HxA to provide grants for HxCommunities events and other activities are made possible in full through the support of the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed at these events (or through such activities) are those of the individual grantees, organizers, speakers, presenters, and attendees of such events/activities and do not necessarily reflect the views of Heterodox Academy and/or the John Templeton Foundation