College of Humanities Perspectives Series Spotlights Free Speech on Campus

February 28th, 2022

Three renowned guest speakers will deliver a wide range of perspectives on the topic of free speech during the inaugural College of Humanities Perspectives Series, the cornerstone event in the newly launched Fearless Inquiries Project. 


The Perspectives Series event is scheduled for April 26, 2022, and will bring together three leading voices at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.: Jeff Chang, Michelle Deutchman and Bill Kristol. They will each address the questions “How Free is Speech on Campus, and Does it Matter?”


“What are the unique ways the humanities can inform this conversation around free speech on college campuses? This is often framed around legal or political arguments, but the humanities perspective is an intriguing and distinct one that can bring new knowledge and understanding to the topic,” said Alain-Philippe Durand, Dorrance Dean of the College of Humanities. “Our hope is this connects to bigger questions about the ways people interact within a culture and how we overcome differences.”


Designed as an event to bring together thought leaders in novel ways around core questions related to the pursuit of a meaningful life, the Perspectives Series will anchor the Fearless Inquiries Project, a long-term, flagship effort specifically aimed at catalyzing a national culture that prizes open discussion, independent judgement and the questioning of stubborn assumptions. The project is supported by a gift commitment of $5.4 million from alumni Jacquelynn and Bennett Dorrance to endow the deanship of the University of Arizona College of Humanities.


“People see the humanities as a way to think through different challenges and find answers and solutions in new ways,” Durand says. “Our goals are to show the power of the humanities to get these kinds of conversations started, to open people’s minds to new perspectives and concepts, and to provide a framework for synthesizing and understanding differing viewpoints.”


The aim of the Perspectives Series is to provide an in-depth and multifaceted discussion of pressing issues and model new solutions. Speakers will present a wide range of ideas and opinions, with audience members encouraged to challenge their own ideas as they consider a variety of other perspectives.


This cohort will bring diverse perspectives from both within and beyond the academy and from across the political spectrum:


Jeff Chang is a leader in racial justice movements and speaks and writes frequently on history, culture, politics, and music, with experience leading student-centered programs at Stanford as Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts, a national model for equipping undergraduate students with skills to steward the power of the arts for social change. He is currently a Senior Advisor to Race Forward, a national policy and movement-building non-profit organization seeking racial justice. 


Michelle Deutchman is the Executive Director of the University of California’s National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, working across all 10 UC campuses to shape and respond to national and campus discourse regarding free speech. A lecturer in law at UCLA, she previously served as Western States Counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, training both administrators and law enforcement officers in safeguarding free speech while maintaining inclusive environments on campus. 


Bill Kristol is a journalist and commentator for national news networks, speaking on a wide range of topics including foreign policy, constitutional law and political philosophy. He was the Founder and Editor-at-large of The Weekly Standard, an influential journal of politics and ideas; he is currently Editor-at-large of The Bulwark. Before leading The Weekly Standard, Kristol led the Project for the Republican Future, shaping Republican political strategy from the late 20th century to the present. He has hosted many conversations on his video platform “Conversations with Bill Kristol” on free speech and liberal education.


The event will be moderated by Keith Allred, Executive Director of the University of Arizona’s National Institute for Civil Discourse, a strategic initiative and resource bank for rebuilding civil discourse in American political life.


“The experts we’ve invited for this inaugural Perspectives Series are widely respected and showcase a great breadth of viewpoints. We’re excited to showcase these speakers and how the humanities is essential in creating new insights, connections and solutions,” Durand said. “We’re providing a thoughtful way for the campus community, and beyond, to approach this complex topic.”