The First Amendment Initiative seeks to foster a stronger understanding and appreciation of First Amendment rights—and responsibilities—at UW–Madison and beyond.
First Amendment freedoms lie at the foundation of liberal democracy and the mission of higher education to teach and pursue truth through intellectual growth and freedom of inquiry. Accordingly, this initiative is building a long-term basis for education and training in the theoretical implications and practical applications of the First Amendment. Such education would include learning relevant case law and the logic of Supreme Court jurisprudence; study of major philosophical, historical, legal, and policy-oriented scholarship; critical discussion and debate regarding the scope and limits of First Amendment freedoms; and thinking about the relationships between First Amendment principles and the mission of higher education, including the importance and meaning of academic freedom. To help achieve these goals, the Initiative is fostering a new generation of scholars researching, and more importantly, teaching the principles of freedom of speech and conscience. The Initiative also strives to provide a model for how the principles of free speech and academic freedom can gain presence and status on campus.
As part of the First Amendment Initiative, CSLD hosts an annual Free Speech in Wisconsin High Schools Symposium for high school principals. This event seeks to provide secondary school administrators with a critical understanding of the rights and limitations of free speech for students, teachers, and citizens. The symposium also shares with principals practical tools, resources, and best practices for addressing freedom of speech issues that may arise at their home institutions.
Past First Amendment events and activities hosted by CSLD:
- Wisconsin and the Future of Free Speech in Education and the Republic: A Conversation with UW Emeritus Professor Donald Downs (November 2020)
- 2020 CSLD Undergraduate Essay Competition. Topic: “Should Patriotism be taught at UW Madison?” (March 2020)
- Free Speech on Campus: A Conversation with Professor Phillip Muñoz (February 2020)
- Born Cancelled: Why Free Speech is the Only Safe Space for Minorities (February 2020)
- Provocation and Civility 2019: Free Speech in Wisconsin High Schools (June 2019)
- The 2019 Disinvited Dinner, with Heather Mac Donald (May 2019)
- 2019 CSLD Undergraduate Essay Competition. Topic: “Should social media platforms be permitted to censor controversial speech”? (March 2019)
- Provocation and Civility 2018: Free Speech in Wisconsin High Schools (June 2018)
- The 2018 Disinvited Dinner, with George Will (May 2018)
- “Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech,” a public lecture by Keith Whittington (April 2018)
- “First Amendment on Campus: Know Your Rights,” a public discussion led by Luke Sheahan (April 2017)
Interested in supporting the First Amendment Initiative? See how you can help the Center.