Free Speech Cafes

  • Free Speech cartoon with Uncle Sam

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

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

Summer 2022 topics

Crossroads of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion

Can a professor refuse to use a specific gender pronoun requested by a student? Would doing so impinge on their freedom of speech in class?

Accommodating safe space for exercising free speech

How do we create spaces where everyone feels safe to exercise their free speech rights without fear of retribution. Why can’t we have classes focused on a protected class (women’s studies) or race-based scholarship?

Free Speech in K-12

What is being taught about free speech today in K-12 curricula? What is the frame of reference provided for college students preparing for careers in K-12 education? 

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


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