Free Speech Fridays

PACE Presents: Free Speech Fridays

Free Speech Fridays offer us the opportunity to put our First Amendment free speech rights into action. Sessions focus on controversial issues of wide interest and are free and open to the public. Our goal is to facilitate passionate but civil discussion that can empower participants to think for themselves. Free Speech Fridays provide one way that PACE, in the words of the program’s vision statement, “cultivates knowledge, develops leadership, and builds communication skills to prepare members of the IU community to take action for positive change.” Join us!

Guidelines for Free Speech Friday discussions:

  • All views are welcome, but please do your best to keep your comments civil, respectful, and focused on the content of the ideas raised and not the people who have raised them.
  • Listen to understand
  • Listen for common ground
  • When you disagree, do so with curiosity, not hostility
  • Refrain from interrupting
  • Keep your comments brief to maximize the participation of all speakers

Next Free Speech Friday

Friday, April 26, 2024:
“The Heckler’s Veto: Threats of Violence, Campus Events, and Free Speech”

by the red clock between Woodburn and Ballantine
12:00 noon - 1:00 p.m.

Free donuts!

Last month, the IUB administration, citing security concerns, requested that Jewish campus organization IU Hillel postpone their planned event featuring Hasan Mosab Yousef, a former Hamas member and now a critic of the group.

In early April, at an IU event featuring conservatives US Rep. Jim Banks (R-Fort Wayne) and Chaya Raichik, founder of Libs of TikTok, protestors disrupted the proceedings by chanting and yelling and were then removed by IU police.

In mid-April, the University of Southern California cancelled the planned graduation speech by the senior class valedictorian Asna Tabassum. The school made its decision based on reports that groups were planning to disrupt the event based on their opposition to Tabassum’s anti-Israel views.

All three of these cases involve the “heckler’s veto” which comes in two flavors. First, there is a preventative version where a governmental authority (e.g., IU) restricts future speech (e.g, cancelling a planned event) based on the anticipation of violent reaction by opponents of the speaker (the potential hecklers). Second, the “veto” can also happen during an event when speaker is shouted down or otherwise prevented from speaking by his/her ideological opponents (that is, by actual hecklers).

Defenders of the preventative version argue that university administrations must sometimes make hard choices and protect the safety of the campus community even if it means preventing an invited speaker or artist’s work (e.g., Samia Halaby’s exhibit at the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art) from being heard or seen. Defenders of the on-the-ground version contend that disrupting an event is not a violation of free speech but rather the exercise of counter-speech in justified resistance to views they hold to be dangerous and even tantamount to violence. Opponents of the “heckler’s veto” argue that, in any form, it dangerously undermines free speech for all.

Who is right? Do threats of violence warrant the cancellation of controversial campus speakers? Is there a free speech right to disrupt campus speaking events? What is at stake in this debate? Please join us for this discussion!

Contact us

Carl Weinberg
Teaching Professor, College of Arts and Sciences
Adjunct Associate Professor, Dept. of History
Director, PACE Institute for Role-Immersive Teaching and Learning (PIRTL)