Northern Michigan University’s Center for Academic and Intellectual Freedom will launch a new speaker series to address topics that generate interest on many college campuses. The first event, presented in cooperation with the College Democrats and College Republicans, will focus on the meaning of free speech today. Thomas Cushman, sociology professor and founding director of the Freedom Project at Wellesley College, will present “Who Gets to Speak and What Do They Get to Say?” His talk is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, in the University Center Nicolet Room. It is free and open to the public.
According to its website, the Freedom Project “offers a unique intellectual space for promoting tolerance, pluralism, intellectual diversity and freedom of expression within the larger Wellesley community and beyond.” It is grounded in the foundational idea of the liberal arts: that vigorous debate, disagreement and conflict are the source of intellectual growth and development and are to be embraced rather than avoided.
NMU English Professor Gabriel Noah Brahm said he was inspired in part by Wellesley’s Freedom Project to establish and direct Northern’s Center for Academic and Intellectual Freedom. Neither the center nor this year’s distinguished speaker series is intended to endorse or oppose any particular issue, he added. The aim is to elevate the discourse on campus in general by fostering tolerance for viewpoint diversity on a range of topics.
“If you don’t create a forum for people to address issues collectively through civil discussion, inevitably people break into factions and talk about things in less civil and productive ways,” Brahm said. “I have an interest in public discourse and noticed the country is so divided these days with escalating anger between opposing viewpoints. This speaker series promotes free thought and free expression. As a bipartisan and nonpartisan affair, the purpose is to promote robust public discourse within responsible bounds, which presumably is something we all want.”
Two other speakers beyond Cushman have been scheduled to make appearances at NMU. University of Illinois Professor Cary Nelson, former national president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), will address academic freedom in February. He is the author of No University Is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom. Columbia University Professor Mark Lilla, author of The Once and Future Liberal will address citizenship and identity in April.
For more information on the speaker series, contact Brahm at 227-1690 or firstname.lastname@example.org.