Weekly News Digest, No. 3

Welcome to the third installment of the Project on Civil Discourse’s Weekly News Digest, hosted on our Real Talk blog.


Tomorrow, October 4th, Students for Free Expression is hosting a student-led debate over the question: “Is health care a human right?” This event is being co-hosted by Better Angels and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and will be held in the Don Meyers Technology and Innovation Building Room 219 from 6:30-8:30PM. RSVP on their Facebook event and see the flyer below for more details.

Flyer for Students for Free Expression event

On Wednesday, October 17th, Professor Garrett Epps will speak about the complexity of free speech in a diverse society at an event hosted by the Project on Civil Discourse. Stay tuned for more details in next week’s News Digest!

Speech on Campus

Last week, witnesses from FIRE, the Newseum, PEN America, and Uncomfortable Learning at Williams College testified at a congressional hearing about the First Amendment on College Campuses. Witnesses addressed a wide range of issues, including the use of free speech as a politicized weapon to either justify unwanted speech or to stifle it. Watch the full hearing below.

In international news, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a new policy requiring publicly assisted colleges and universities to develop their own free speech policies. Most, if not all, Ontario universities already have similar policies in place, but the new provincial policy will standardize existing policies and provide the government a way to enforce free speech protections on campus.

Political Discourse

A recent St. Olaf College study found that congressional districts that are gerrymandered for partisan purposes experience more extreme campaign rhetoric. Professor Chris Chapp and three students used a machine learning algorithm to evaluate the issue pages on U.S. House candidate websites. While the team noted their results didn’t point to a causal relationship, their findings provide important insights into civil discourse in the political arena.

In national news, a senior Trump official once used semi-anonymous blog posts to question if the n-word was inherently racist and claim that many hate crimes were hoaxes. Eric Blankenstein, a policy director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is responsible for enforcing consumer protection laws that protect minorities from discriminatory lending practices. Blankenstein said that these posts do not influence his work today.

Next week, Real Talk will feature a guest post by two American University students on navigating conversations about politics. Thanks for reading!

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