February 17, 2022

Join a virtual conversation on the differences between free speech, hate speech

A woman speaks into a megaphone at a rally.The Office of Multicultural Student Engagement (OMSE) and Dean of Students Office will be hosting a virtual conversation, Free Speech, Hate Speech and Civility, on Feb. 24 at 5 p.m.

“Attendees will get to listen and learn about the differences between free speech and hate speech, and where those intersect with the idea of civility,” OMSE Interim Director Stephanie Hawkes said. “The first part of the session will be the presenters giving an overview of those terms and what they mean. Then they'll facilitate some conversation amongst the attendees and kind of tie it back to our campus, and what's been happening here.”

The conversation will be facilitated by Katia Campbell, professor of communication studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and Michael Benitez, Jr., vice president for diversity and inclusion at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“They collaborate on holding conversations around these topics” Hawkes said. “They’re very dynamic and engaging. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed talking with them, so I look forward to seeing them facilitate this conversation.”

Hawkes said there have been instances in the past where people not affiliated with Wayne State have come to campus to promote their own message. She’s hopeful this event will help students in situations like those.

“This event is a direct result of some feedback we received from students saying we need to have a conversation about this,” Hawkes said. “They wanted to create a space to have a conversation around what free speech is and what that means for our campus.

“Wayne State is the most diverse campus in Michigan and is situated uniquely in the city of Detroit. And with that, there have been instances over the years where outside groups — who are not affiliated with Wayne State — come to campus to exercise their free speech rights and talk about whatever their beliefs may be.”

Hawkes hopes this event will be a starting point for students to continue to have more discussions about diversity and inclusion.

“I hope it leads to more conversations,” Hawkes said. “I hope it encourages students to engage with one another on their own terms. It doesn't require OMSE or DOSO to convene an event, so I hope that students leave the event feeling empowered to have these kinds of conversations amongst themselves.”

One of Hawkes’ department’s goals is to make all students feel safe and empowered so they can be successful at Wayne State.

“When we talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, that includes having difficult conversations around these types of topics,” Hawkes said. “I feel it's our department's responsibility to make sure that we're uplifting diverse voices, celebrating them and making them feel affirmed so that they are successful here as students. Sometimes within diversity, equity and inclusion work, we get uncomfortable, and that's to be expected. As we learn about people from different backgrounds and belief systems, we have to exercise those muscles of feeling uncomfortable so we can grow and learn to understand others from all different walks of life.”

There is no need to RSVP for the event. For more information visit events.wayne.edu/2022/02/24/free-speech-hate-speech-and-civility-91624/ or contact the OMSE office at omse@wayne.edu.

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