UC President Napolitano announces new free speech center

Advocating for free speech, quietly, before the start of the noon rally. (UC Berkeley photos by Keegan Houser, Laurie Frasier and Hulda Nelson)

In an op-ed published this morning in USA Today, University of California President Janet Napolitano announced that UC will establish the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement in Washington, D.C., as part of a concerted educational, research and advocacy effort centered on the First Amendment’s critical importance to American democracy.

In her op-ed, Napolitano writes that America’s colleges and universities are “uniquely suited” to take on the many valid and urgent questions about free speech raised by recent events on campuses across the nation.

She writes, “The time has come to explore in a thoughtful, deliberative way the state of free speech at our nation’s colleges and universities, students’ once and future relationship with the First Amendment, and what tomorrow holds for engaging people in our democracy … Cognizant of both the enduring constitutional principles of free speech and the nature of our changing times, the center and its roster of fellows will focus on addressing whether and how students’ relationship to the First Amendment has fundamentally shifted from the 1960s — and how to restore trust in the value and importance of free speech among students and society at large.”

UC Berkeley School of Law dean Erwin Chemerinsky and UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman will serve as co-chairs of the center’s advisory board. Also on the board are former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer; John King, president and CEO of The Education Trust and former U.S. secretary of education; Anne Kornblut, director of strategic communications at Facebook; Avi Oved, student at UCLA School of Law; New York Times columnist Bret Stephens; Geoffrey R. Stone, professor at the University of Chicago Law School; and Washington Post columnist George Will, among others.

Read the full op-ed here