Free Speech Cafes

  • Free Speech cartoon with Uncle Sam

Drop in for informal panel discussions held around campus 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.

Past events

Constitution Day Celebration

Wednesday, September 13, 2023
Lee Honors College

Navigating Controversy in the Classroom

Monday, March 20, 2022
Location: Sangren Hall Room 1710
Moderator: Keith Hahn, WMU General Counsel
Guest panelists: Dr. Mary-Louise Totton, WMU Frostic School of Art and Dr. Decker Hains, Faculty Senate and WMU Department of Management

Join us for a conversation on academic freedom and free expression in the classroom. As universities deal with balancing free expression and creating a safe space for students, what are the legal boundaries of what instructors can teach their students or say in the classroom? What protections are in place for scholars to challenge the status quo and present research findings that may be controversial?

Academic Freedom in the News:

New York Times: A lecturer showed a Painting of the Prophet Muhammad. She Lost Her Job. 

Fox News 9: Muslim community honors Prophet Muhammad after incident at Hamline University

Statement from the National Council of American-Islamic Relations on the incident and response

Don't Ban Depictions of Muhammad from the Classroom: Opinion Piece

Free Speech in the Classroom 

5:15 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 17, 2022
Lee Honors College Lounge and livestreamed
Moderator: Jennifer Townsend
Guest panelists: Dave Paul, Philosophy chair and faculty specialist, and WMU students Bella Loe Proulx and David Roderick

How do we create a classroom environment in which students feel free to share their perspective without fear of judgment or retaliation? Join us as we talk with Professor Dave Paul and WMU honors students Bella Loe Proulx and David Roderick about how free speech—or restrictions on it—affect learning on campus.


Constitution Day Celebration

Monday, Sept. 19, 2022
Lee Honors College
6 p.m.
Constitution Trivia Challenge and Pizza Party (free Jet's Pizza!)

Video of Transatlantic Justice in Early America
7 p.m.
Constitution Day lecture

Transatlantic Justice in Early America

Presented by Dr. Sally Hadden, a legal historian of early America and the antebellum United States and a professor in WMU’s Department of History. Dr. Hadden spoke about the forerunner of judicial review: the process of appealing cases for a rehearing from the American colonies to the Privy Council in England--and the steps colonial politicians took to prevent those appeals from happening. This restriction on access to justice by appeal put some colonists at odds with their own political leaders. The lecture is annually co-hosted by the Departments of History and Political Science. Event flyer.


past 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