“Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech.” – Benjamin Franklin
Each year, the Goldfarb Center chooses an annual theme that informs and shapes our programming. This year the Goldfarb Student Executive Board selected freedom of speech. We have covered a range of issues related to free speech from constitutional rights, the role of social media and big technology, resisting hate speech, and campus policies. The center brought speakers to campus to help us explore these issues, including civil liberties leader Nadine Strossen, the former head of the ACLU, and activist and author Nathan Law, who is currently living in exile in London to escape Hong Kong’s crackdown on free speech. We listened to Colby faculty panels discuss free speech from a global perspective and how it relates to science. And we dived into the issue of disinformation and the impact of technology and social media.
The theme is the focal point for the Goldfarb Freedom of Expression Policy Symposium held in the spring, which offers a $2,000 prize for the best policy proposal related to free speech. This page serves as an information hub about the policy competition and symposium. Below you will find the latest guidance, resources, and links to all of our programming this year tied to freedom of speech.
The Goldfarb Freedom of Expression Policy Symposium will be held from 4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26 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.
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.
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.
The faculty judging panel will select the winners using the following criteria:
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
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
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.
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 @colby.edu address to watch it.
For more information on Roger McNamee, please visit www.prhspeakers.com
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 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 colby.edu/livestream.
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”!
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.
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.