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Drexel’s Pennoni Honors College to Host Cultural Critic Camille Paglia at Forum about Free Speech on the College Campus by Erica Levi Zelinger
Assistant Director of Communication, Pennoni Honors College

Questions about the value and the costs of free speech in an academic setting have roiled campuses across the country. To raise awareness of this issue – in all its complexity – Pennoni Honors College will host “The Smart Set Forum: Free Speech on the College Campus.” The April 21 event will bring cultural critic, scholar, and outspoken pundit Camille Paglia to talk about the levels of “punitive PC” that have overtaken campuses. Laura Beth Nielsen, an eminent law professor, will represent the cutting-edge approaches being taken toward a new understanding of the damage speech can cause to individuals and groups at the margins.

“Free speech is a topic very much in the news,” says Paula Marantz Cohen, Dean of Pennoni Honors College. “From my experience, people tend to align themselves very rigidly on one side or the other without considering that this is not a simple subject, so much depends upon context. Even if you don’t agree with the other side, it’s helpful to realize where that side is coming from.”

The forum will kick off with a panel discussion of Pennoni Honors College students discussing the issue as it pertains to Drexel University and their lives in general. Robert Watts, associate teaching professor of English, will moderate.

“Drexel students have told me that they are more pragmatic than most college students,” says Dean Cohen. “They are dealing with a heavy workload and getting a job. Yet they are not unaware of the issue, and I think realize that it has implications beyond the campus. I’m hoping that our event will get them more interested in thinking about the consequences of limiting or not limiting speech in different contexts.”

Laura Beth Nielsen, a Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation as well as an Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Legal Studies at Northwestern University, will then take the stage to suggest ways the law can begin to respond to free speech issues.

Paglia, an outspoken gadfly with a controversial presence, will follow, and present her decades-long voice regarding free speech.

“I hope attendees are able to get a sense that people with good will and a great deal of passion are on both sides of this issue,” says Richard Abowitz, Editor-in-Chief of The Smart Set, the online arts and culture journal housed in the Honors College. “Also, I hope we can move past slogans and easy answers to explore the complexity of the legitimate concerns of everyone involved in this debate.”

Free Speech on College Campus PosterFOR MORE INFO:

The Smart Set Forum: Free Speech on the College Campus

Thursday, April 21
Mandell Theater
33rd and Chestnut Streets

3:30-8:00 p.m.