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UA symposium to explore constitutional issues within universities

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Rebecca Noble | The Daily Wildcat

Amani Lewis shows her solidarity with the #OurLivesMatter demonstration on the UA Mall. 

The UA Dean of Students Office will host a one-day event focusing on meaningful dialogue and engagement at the university level this week.

The Constitutional Issues in Higher Education Symposium will be held on June 22 at the James E. Rogers College of Law from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"This year’s symposium theme,'Welcoming Speech,'highlights the important role of colleges and universities to protect and promote free inquiry and expression," according to the Dean of Students website.

It also said institutions can help develop individuals to be able to engage in respectful dialogue with others.

While in the current narrative it seems like institutions prevent free speech, many of those institutions do welcome it said Kendal Washington White, UA dean of students. 

RELATED: Column: The politics of discussion on campus

"Freedom of expression is a hallmark of colleges and universities," she said. "Yet the current narrative indicates that institutions of higher education suppress the voices of students, faculty and staff."

Washington White said her office is diligently working to ensure members of the UA community can express themselves even when others may disagree.

According to a joint 2016 survey conducted by Gallup, the Knight Foundation and the Newseum Institute, 73 percent of eligible students believe freedom of speech is "very secure" or "secure" while 27 percent feel it is "threatened" or "very threatened."

The poll also showed 22 percent of the students said the ability for Americans to exercise free speech rights is weaker than 20 years ago.

Mi-Ai Parrish, president of Republic Media will be the keynote speaker at the event alongside a variety of speakers from the UA and other institutions.

RELATED: Panel discusses line between free speech and hateful statements

"Our presenters represent diverse and divergent viewpoints and will encourage discussion and thoughtful exploration," said SevaPriya Barrier, senior associate dean of students. “Participants should expect a day of dialogue, exploration and professional and personal growth."

At least 16 featured speakers will present on six different topics from student religious organizations on campus, the psychology of insults and more.

"Symposium attendees will experience outstanding discourse regarding current events, such as managing controversial speakers," Washington White said. "The impact of technology on expression from speakers representing diverse professions and institutions."

Barrier believes this event benefits the continuing discussion of rhetoric and practices on college campuses.

“This symposium benefits campus communities by providing a space for participants to engage with practitioners and scholars, around topics which reinforce the importance of academic freedom, free expression and civil discourse," she said.

Washington White mentioned attendees shouldn't worry about underlying political views.

"The Symposium is apolitical," she said. "Thus education is the primary focus with the goal of attendees utilizing their new knowledge to effect change, improve policies on their campuses and to educate."


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