In honor of Constitution Day, Fresno State’s Institute for Media and Public Trust hosted its inaugural First Amendment public forum Monday night.
About 50 members of the Fresno State community and the public attended the forum comprised of five panelists: Wen Fa, attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation; Michael E. Smith, founding partner of the Lozano Smith law firm; Demi Wack, Fresno State Associated Students, Inc. president; Thomas Holyoke, chair of the Fresno State Academic Senate; and Diane Blair, president of the Fresno State chapter of the California Faculty Association.
Jim Boren, former executive editor of The Fresno Bee and executive director of the institute, moderated the event. The goal of the event, Boren said, is to bridge the gap between the media and its consumers.
Fresno State dealt with several instances this year regarding academic freedom and the First Amendment’s role in a faculty member’s freedom of speech on and off campus.
University president Joseph Castro kicked off the forum by touching on the First Amendment. “Our freedom as Americans to speak out on a wide range of topics is a hallmark of our democracy.”
Wack said students have mainly moved on from free speech issues that recently plagued the university. She said students have more to worry about than what a professor says on social media. But, the incidents created a conversation that students can learn from, she added.
Holyoke said a very normal part of teaching is making students uncomfortable because that means they are thinking and that sparks a conversation.
The audience had the chance to ask the panelists questions about free speech on private-school campuses versus public schools, social media policies for faculty and possibly limitations of free speech, namely hate speech.
Smith responded by saying, “The best solution to awful speech is more speech about it.”