Annual Theme - Goldfarb Center


The theme selected by the Goldfarb Student Executive Board for the 2022-2023 academic year is healthcare. Thus, the center will be focusing a significant portion of programming on public policy issues related to healthcare rights, including reproductive rights, gender and racial inequities in health and health care, big pharma and the economy, and the possibility, and challenges, of achieving universal healthcare, among other issues. Healthcare will be the topic for our annual spring policy competition. Our aim is to choose a theme or issue that is newsworthy, has clear ties to public policy, and can engage students across campus. The student board selected the issue of healthcare in the spring of 2022 before the historical decision by the Supreme Court this summer on reproductive rights.  

The Goldfarb Center’s theme last year was on freedom of speech, covering a range of issues from students’ right to protest to the role of social media and big technology. The center brought speakers to campus to help explore these issues, including civil liberties leader Nadine Strossen, former head of the ACLU and author of a book on protecting hate speech, and activist Nathan Law, who is currently living in exile in London to escape Hong Kong’s crackdown on free speech. Colby faculty panels discussed free speech from a global perspective and how it relates to science. Students presented policy solutions in the Freedom of Expression Symposium on topics as diverse as press freedom to disinformation education.

2023 Freedom of Expression Policy Symposium


The Goldfarb Freedom of Expression Policy Symposium will be held from 4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25 in Ostrove Auditorium. The event is open to the public. Eight semi-finalists will give a presentation about the biggest problem in the world today regarding freedom of speech and a proposed policy solution. The top three winners will be announced at the end of the event. First place at the symposium will receive $1,700; second place $1,200, and third $700. Semi-finalists were selected by the first phase of the policy competition, which was a two-page policy brief. Students can compete as an individual or in teams of up to three people.

Proposal Guidance

Policy proposals should be no more than two pages long, do not need to follow any specific format, and can include bullets and visuals. Citations are encouraged but not required. Your brief should answer the following questions: What is the biggest problem in the world today regarding freedom of speech? What is the most appropriate policy solution to that problem and why?

Proposals may focus on a broad range of policy issues related to free speech. You could either focus on policy as a means of protecting free speech or on placing certain policy restrictions or limits on free speech. Your brief should clearly state the problem being addressed and recommend a specific, actionable policy or policies. Be clear about what freedom of speech means for the purposes of the proposal or what kind of free speech the proposal is addressing.

Policy examples: strengthened U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic efforts related to freedom of speech in another country, better U.S. congressional policies or oversight to protect citizens and free speech related to social media, or clearer workplace or campus policies related to protest rights. There are many more! Competitors are welcome to discuss their policy ideas with Goldfarb staff and faculty advisors. Proposals were due by Wednesday, April 13, to [email protected]. A panel of faculty judges has since decided which proposals to move forward for the next stage as semi-finalists.

Presentation Guidance

Winners will be selected primarily based on their presentation. You should be concise, organized, and specific with well-supported points. Be attentive to practical policy details. While you should not deviate significantly from the policy proposal already submitted, you are expected to refine and strengthen your policy points with additional research. We strongly recommend the use of visuals (i.e. PowerPoint) to enhance your talk.  Presentations should be 5 minutes long, 7 minutes maximum. The faculty judges may ask presenters 1-2 questions after the presentation. Responses to questions should be no more than 2 minutes long.  

Judging Criteria

The faculty judging panel will select the winners using the following criteria: 

  • Provides a specific public policy solution, including how it would be implemented and the potential impact
  • Reflects familiarity with the current policy landscape and draws on available evidence
  • Identifies a clear connection to freedom of speech
  • Delivers a polished, practiced presentation

2022 Symposium Winners

The annual theme for 2021-22 was Freedom of Speech. In April 2022, eight student semi-finalists presented their policy proposals on Freedom of Speech. Topics ranged from Free Speech at Colby: Problems and Recommendations, to Enhancing Freedom of the Press in the United States.

The winners were decided by a faculty panel, which included Professors Christel Kesler, Aaron Hanlon , and Jin Goh, all members of the Goldfarb Faculty Advisory Committee. The top prize went to Serena Klebba ’25 for her work on Freely Informing Consent: A Pland to Change Mandated Pre-Abortion Counseling, second place went to Amir Jiru ’24 and Chris Ward ’24 who teamed up to focus on Misinfo Ed: Addressing Social Media Misinformation Through Education, and third place was awarded to Anna doRosario ’25 for her compelling thoughts on A Turning Point: Time for an “FDA for Tech”. You can watch the symposium and presentations here

2021 Symposium Winners

The annual theme for 2020-21 was the U.S. criminal justice system and racial inequalities. In April 2021, six student semi-finalists presented their policy proposals on how to reform the U.S. criminal justice system to achieve racial justice. Topics ranged from marijuana decriminalization to the prison-industrial complex to predictive policing tools and more.

The winners were decided by a faculty panel, which included Professors Christel Kesler, Adam Howard, and Nadia El-Shaarawi, all members of the Goldfarb Faculty Advisory Committee. The top prize went to Esther Kim ’21 for her work on Policing in the US: Ensuring Equitable Involvement and Citizen Participation, second place went to Alice O’Neill ’23 and Halle Carroll ’23 who teamed up to focus on Anti-Capitalist Justice: Divesting from the Prison-Industrial Complex, and third place was awarded to Connor Flotten ’21 for his compelling thoughts on Ending the War on Drugs: Decriminalization and Racial Justice. You can watch the symposium and presentations here

Freedom of Speech Programming '21-'22

Freedom of Speech

Colby Faculty Panel: Global Perspectives on Free Speech

March 28, 2022

As part of the Goldfarb Center’s annual theme on freedom of speech, Colby professors guided us in a conversation on free speech with a global lens. How do policy approaches to free speech vary across countries? Is the US approach to free speech exceptional? What kinds of historical and contemporary factors help us understand different countries’ orientations toward free speech? What global and geopolitical forces shape policies on free speech?

The panel included Jen Yoder, the Robert E. Diamond Professor of Government and Global Studies and a member of the Goldfarb Faculty Advisory Committee, Jun (Philip) Fang, Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology, and Nazli Konya, Visiting Assistant Professor of Government. Moderating will be Christel Kesler, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology.

Social Media, Political Polarization, & Free Speech

March 17, 2022

How has social media shifted the way we consume and share information? Has the surge of digital platforms driven (or not) America’s growing political divide? What policies can balance the protection of free speech with malicious disinformation campaigns?

The Goldfarb Center hosted a high-level panel discussion, tackling these questions and more and exploring the nexus between social media, political polarization, and free speech. Panelists included Roger McNamee, a tech venture capitalist and author of Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe; Renée DiResta, technical director of Stanford Internet Observatory; and Chris Vlasto, an ABC News senior executive producer. Kimberly Flowers, executive director of the Goldfarb Center, moderated the conversation.

This event is currently live on our website for 14 days only! You must have a address to watch it.

For more information on Roger McNamee, please visit

Scholars Strategy Network

Researching for Public Impact: How to Use Your Knowledge to Impact Policy

March 11, 2022

The Goldfarb Center hosted a workshop that helped inform students on writing compelling and jargon-free policy briefs. Participants moved through each step of the policy brief drafting process and actively shaped their idea into a first draft. The workshop also included practical information on how to distribute your policy brief for maximum impact.

The workshop was led by Andrew Pope and Kristina Mensik from the Scholars Strategy Network. Andrew is the Director of Training at the Scholars Strategy Network. In this role, he works closely with staff and leaders from across the network to develop trainings that empower scholars to use research to improve public policy. Andrew has a PhD from the History Department at Harvard University. Kristina is the Trainings Fellow at SSN, where she supports researchers in the policy process. In addition, Kristina is a policy advocate and researcher largely focused on state legislatures, incarceration, and political participation.

The Role and Rise of Disinformation​

The Role and Rise of Disinformation

February 17, 2022

The Goldfarb Center welcomed Lisa Kaplan ’13, founder and CEO of Alethea Group, who discussed disinformation in the digital age. From public policies to social media tactics, Kaplan explored how the general public, government, and private companies alike can protect and mitigate disinformation and social media manipulation in today’s world. 

The event was hosted in-person for the Colby community. The recorded event can now be live-streamed at

Free Speech in the Classroom: Conflict and Contradiction

January 11, 2022

The Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs hosted a conversation featuring Jan Plan visiting faculty Bernardine Dohrn and William Ayers. The talk was a contemporary conversation about how to respond to the desires, demands, and questions in classrooms today. What contradictions and conflicts, complexities and controversies, emerge when we consider free speech in the classroom? This is part of a series of events the Goldfarb Center has hosted this year in line with its focus on freedom of speech.

Bernardine Dohrn, activist, academic, and children’s and women’s rights advocate, is a retired Associate Clinical Professor from Northwestern University School of Law, where she was the founding director of the Children and Family Justice Center for 23 years. Dohrn is an author or editor of “Race Course: Against White Supremacy”; “A Century of Juvenile Justice” and “Resisting Zero Tolerance: A Handbook for Parents, Teachers, and Students”. Willam Ayers, formerly Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago has written extensively about social justice and democracy, education and the cultural contexts of schooling, and teaching as an essentially intellectual, ethical, and political enterprise. His books include “Teaching toward Freedom”; “To Teach: The Journey, in Comics”; and “Demand the Impossible”!


Does Free Speech Give Us Better Science?

November 16, 2021

Conventional wisdom holds that science flourishes in a free, open society with robust free speech norms. But as misinformation spreads during a global pandemic, costing lives and undermining scientific credibility, is it time to rethink conventional wisdom? The Goldfarb Center hosted an interdisciplinary Colby faculty panel for a conversation about the compatibility of free speech and scientific inquiry and what we can do to protect both. 
The conversation was, organized by members of the Goldfarb Faculty Advisory Committee, including Christel Kesler,  Associate Professor of Sociology & Goldfarb Faculty Associate Director, Aaron Hanlon, Associate Professor of English, and Dasan Thamattoor, J. Warren Merrill Professor in Chemistry and Natural History.
Emerson Sykes

Q&A with ACLU'S Senior Staff Attorney Emerson Sykes on Free Speech Protections on Campus

November 12, 2021

The Goldfarb Center hosted a thoughtful talk with one of the nation’s top First Amendment litigators on free speech issues ranging from protest rights, Black student activism on campuses, and​ the recent string of state classroom censorship bills. The event was an open Q&A session where Colby students had the opportunity to ask Mr. Sykes anything​, which might include discussing his current ​cases and free speech work, ​free speech protection trends, or the historical role of student activism.

Nadine Strossen

Fighting Hate Speech, Defending Free Speech: A Conversation with Nadine Strossen

November 4, 2021

The Goldfarb Center hosted a conversation with civil liberties leader and free speech expert Nadine Strossen. The event officially kicked off a series of programming related to freedom of speech, the center’s theme this year. Ms. Strossen engaged in a robust Q&A with Colby students, faculty, and staff on issues ranging from how to effectively resist hate speech to free speech on college campuses. She talked about constitutional rights, the role of social media, and much more.