Three events on campus celebrate National Free Speech Week

The events celebrate freedom of expression on college campuses and across the U.S.

Toby Mohr

More stories from Toby Mohr

“The ability to express your views is the core of having personal freedoms.”

Photo by SUBMITTED

“The ability to express your views is the core of having personal freedoms.”

UW-Eau Claire is hosting three events for National Free Speech Week from Oct. 17 through Oct. 20.

At 5 p.m., Monday, Oct. 17, the Menard Center for Constitutional Studies is sponsoring a presentation and discussion on the history of free speech in the United States called “Free Speech, the Supreme Court, and John Stuart Mill” led by Eric Kasper and Troy Kozma in Centennial 1804.

Then at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 19, the Menard Center is partnering with Q-Fest, a student-run film festival to examine and celebrate queer lives, to cosponser a showing of “A Run For More,” a film that follows Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe’s campaign to be the first transgender woman to serve on the San Antonio City Council, in the Davies Center Woodland Theater. 

The film will be followed by a virtual Q&A session with Gonzales-Wolfe.

The third event at 5 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 20, will host author Wilfred Reilly for a discussion and Q&A about his book, “Taboo: 10 Facts You Can’t Talk About.” The event is sponsored by the Menard Center for Constitutional Studies and will be held in Centennial 1804. 

Phil Rechek, the program coordinator for the Menard Center for Constitutional Studies, said Free Speech Week is meant to be a nonpartisan and non-ideological promotion of the freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

“These events are to give a background on what free speech is and also to bring people who speak up in the face of adversity, challenged conventional norms and are putting free speech in motion,” Rechek said. 

Rechek said free speech is an important thing for university students to learn about.

“College students are going through this amazing educational experience, but without free speech and the opportunity to express yourself, you can get into ideological echo chambers,” Rechek said. “Exposing yourself to ideas you haven’t heard or that you don’t agree with are really important to develop your educational thought.”

Hannah Temes, a fourth-year political science and legal studies student, said Free Speech Week events give students a unique opportunity to learn about important topics outside of a classroom setting.

“Free speech is very important to being on a public campus,” Temes said. “Civil discourse and being able to talk to one another is important and going to these events you learn how to do that.”

Temes also said she was excited for the collaboration with Q-Fest and said it is an important partnership.

“The partnership with Q-Fest is important,” Temes said. “Especially when it comes to people being able to fully express themselves, it’s important to have different avenues to do that.”

Elizabeth TenBarge, a third-year political science and legal studies student, said the Q-Fest partnership brings in many new perspectives to the Free Speech Week events.

“The LQBTQIA+ community has faced a lot of censorship and oppression, so being able to partner that community with freedom of speech week is a really important partnership,” TenBarge said. “The only way to combat hate is to use free speech.”

TenBarge said that free speech of all kinds makes campus a better place.

“The ability to express your views is the core of having personal freedoms,” TenBarge said. “Public colleges are supposed to be a place where free speech and new ideas can be heard.” 

Mohr can be reached at [email protected]