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Free speech has caused a large debate on college campuses in the United States -- especially at the University of Connecticut. Many student groups have tried to come together to rewrite the university’s policy on hate speech and conduct, attempting to limit the number of freedoms that students have on campus. This has inspired the creation of the student-led organization, Huskies for Free Speech, which has begun hosting engaging events for students to get involved in the free speech debate on campus, as well as learn more information. 

On Wednesday, October 27th, Huskies for Free Speech hosted a talk on “The Problem of Hate Speech.” UConn students got to hear from Nadine Strossen, former President of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Richard Wilson, the founder of the Human Rights Institute here at UConn. The two discussed the ways in which hate speech arises, and the fact that there is no set definition of “hate speech,” which is why it is such a difficult topic to address. Strossen mentioned that free speech has become a partisan issue on college campuses and oftentimes the minority is shut down by the majority. Strossen also stated that limiting free speech can have negative effects on various minority groups and is necessary to protect speech on college campuses, as the ACLU has dealt with incidents at UConn in the past. Strossen emphasized in the discussion that the main way to combat hate is with free speech, not censorship. 

If you are looking for an interesting class to take and want to be more informed on your free speech rights as well as the detrimental effects of hate speech, I recommend taking HRTS 3230 with Professor Wilson. The class is titled “Propaganda, Disinformation, and Hate Speech” and is very relevant to current problems concerning the rise of social media and issues such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We have had the opportunity to hear from interesting speakers that have dealt with the Facebook oversight board and have written legal briefs on oversight cases. 

Overall, free speech is a complicated and important topic on college campuses. I encourage others to check out more of the events hosted by Huskies for Free Speech; or, take a class on the rights that we have!

Christina is a sophomore Political Science major at the University of Connecticut. She enjoys spending time with her friends, dogs, and writing!
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