Twelth Annual Fall Ethics Symposium

The Ethics of Saying Things: Free Speech on American College Campuses

Monday and Tuesday, November 20 - 21, 2017

Redwood Room (University Union), Sacramento State (Monday, November 20)

Recital Hall, Cosumnes River College (Tuesday, November 21)

Symposium Flyer

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” –George Orwell
Does the first amendment have any limitations on modern American college campuses? Join us as we discuss the ethics of stating our opinions at the 12th annual Fall Ethics Symposium at CSUS & CRC. Delve into these ideas during the day, then explore your thoughts while connecting with peers and professors. 

This event is free and open to the general public. Here are links for Directions and a Campus Map for Cosumnes River College. Here are links for Directions and a Campus Map for Sacramento State.

Symposium Program

Monday, November 20, 2017: Sacramento State, Redwood Room (University Union)

8:30 am - 9 am: Morning Refreshments, Coffee/Tea

9 am - 9:20 am: Greetings and Opening Remarks

Kyle Swan
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Director, Center for Practical and Professional Ethics
California State University, Sacramento

Steve Perez
Vice Provost
California State University, Sacramento

Christina Bellon
Associate Dean for Budget and Assessment
College of Arts & Letters
California State University, Sacramento

Ginny McReynolds
Dean of Humanities & Social Science
Cosumnes River College

Sean Denney
Senior Project Manager
Institute for Humane Studies

9:30 am – 10:50 am Session #1: Who Gets to Speak and What Do They Get to Say? (Link to YouTube video Session begins at 20:25)

Main Speaker: Thomas Cushman, Professor of Sociology, Wellesley College

Abstract: This talk engages two foundational questions in the history of freedom of speech and the ethics of saying things. We explore the origins of and answers to these questions in various historical contexts and discuss controversial cases in the contemporary world, with a focus on the academic world. Identity politics has contributed to a more pluralistic public sphere, but has also led to the circumscribing and compartmentalizing communication along the lines of "identity as status", which ties speech rights and speech content to the holding of a particular position within the cultural constellation of identity politics.

Bio: Thomas Cushman is Deffenbaugh de Hoyos Carlson Professor in the Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College. 

He is the Director of The Freedom Project at Wellesley College, which aims to foster intellectual pluralism, debate, tolerance, and diversity of viewpoints at the College.

Over the course of his career, his writings have focused on a wide range of topics, all of which can be characterized by a common theme of freedom and its repression in human societies.

11:00 am - 12:20 pm Lunch Break

Registered participants are invited to stay for lunch.

12:30 pm – 1:50 pm Session #2: Free Speech and Title IX Culture (Link to YouTube video)

Main Speaker: Jonathan (J.K.) Miles, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Quincy College

Abstract: The current free speech controversy on campus is a clash of two cultures. What I call "1A culture", after the first amendment, is exemplified in Mill's liberal vision that education should not tell us what to believe, but help us form our own beliefs in a manner worthy of intelligent beings. 1A culture clashes with what I dub "Title IX culture" after the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 1A culture is well-known, as are its critics, but Title IX culture (not Title IX itself) seems averse to 1A culture. After drawing on some social survey data to sketch attitudes and dispositions, I critique two arguments commonly found in Title IX culture. 

I examine Jeremy Waldron's group libel argument in The Harm in Hate Speech and apply it to campus speech regulation. Waldron claims discriminatory speech represents a form of group libel. Waldron's particular schema for differentiating between group libel and acceptable content re-invigorates epistemic worries about "regulators getting it wrong" that have faded from the free speech debate.

Even if some speech does not rise to the level of hate, it may still privilege the dominant culture,and this is a reason to censor privileged viewpoints. In "Repressive Tolerance," Herbert Marcuse makes an epistemic and a moral claim. First, it is possible to know which policies, opinions, and movements would promote justice. Second, morally regressive ideals should be suppressed in order to strengthen progressive ones. I express skepticism about the epistemic claim and argue that the moral claim is much weaker without Marcuse's Marxist assumptions. I apply Mill's "dead dogma" argument to the concept of repressive tolerance and argue the greatest cost of repression for equality is that Title IX culture will no longer be able to claim its derision for 1A culture is epistemically justified.

Bio: Dr. Miles primarily teaches applied ethics (business ethics, bioethics, and punishment ethics). His research in moral and political philosophy centers around virtue theory applied to varied topics including freedom of speech and patient responsibilities in healthcare. He is currently writing a bioethics textbook, Practical Bioethics: Ethics for Patients and Providers, due out in 2018.

2 pm - 2:20 pm: Reception, Light Refreshments

2:30pm - 3:50 pm Session #3: Sneaky Threats to the First Amendment (Link to YouTube video)

Main Speaker: Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Associate Editor, Reason Magazine

Abstract: Ms. Brown's talk will cover several under-looked policy arenas where First Amendment rights are being eroded.There's a lot of focus in the media right now on things like campus free-speech issues, "hate speech" laws, and how to handle online harassment without promoting censorship. It will focus on less well-known speech threats, like the push to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, overly broad interpretations of morals laws related to everything from sexting to prostitution, Title IX's effect not just on student sex but also on the academic freedom of professors, and California's push to censor sites like IMDB and Yelp.

Bio: Elizabeth Nolan Brown is an associate editor at Reason, where she covers sex policy, free speech, criminal justice, women's healthcare, food regulation, and national politics. Her writing has also appeared in outlets such as PoliticoPlayboy, the Los Angeles TimesThe Daily Beast, Fox News, The Week, The Dish, and Time magazine, and been published by entities such as the New America Foundation and the Cato Institute. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017: Consumnes River College, Recital Hall

8:15 am - 8:45 am: Morning Refreshments, Coffee/Tea

8:45 am - 9 am: Greetings and Opening Remarks 

Rick Schubert
Professor of Philosophy
Cosumnes River College and Executive Director
CRC-CPPE Fall Ethics Symposium Series

Torence Powell
Associate Vice President
Instruction and Student Learning
Cosumnes River College

Ginny McReynolds
Dean of Humanities & Social Science
Cosumnes River College

Sean Denney
Senior Project Manager
Institute for Humane Studies

9 am – 10:20 am Session #4: What It Costs Science When We Lose Academic Freedom (Link to YouTube video Session begins at 10:25)

Main Speaker: George Yancey, Professor of Sociology, University of North Texas

Abstract: In this talk, George Yancey will briefly point to the evidence of academic bias so that the audience understands what sort of discrepancies we might expect in scholarly work. Then he will use the theory of right-wing authoritarianism to show how scholarly work can become distorted when shaped by ideological filters. He will end the talk comparing two controversial studies -- the Decety religious generosity study and the Regnerus same-sex parenting study to show what happens to research that does not match the political bias in academia.

Bio: George Yancey is Professor of Sociology at the University of North Texas. His research interests include Christian studies, science, knowledge, religion, race relations, interracial unions, and multicultural churches. He received his Ph.D from the University of Texas at Austin.

10:30 am – 11:50 am Session #5: The Voices of Today, a Place to be Heard (Link to YouTube video)

Main Speaker: Kaycea Campbell, Associate Professor of Economics, Pierce College

Abstract: In 2017 and over the last couple of years, there has been an alarming crackdown in colleges and universities on freedom of speech, to the extent. These developments challenge students and professors alike to resist protocols that stifle free speech. 

There is arguably no better platform to discuss challenging issues, brainstorm ideologies and philosophies of life than in Colleges and Universities. These institutions have an unmatched ecology of diverse peoples that cut across race, sex and beliefs who interact on a daily basis, and the ability to openly speak about issues concerning their lives, environment and future is an undisputed weapon needed in the arsenal of future leaders to drive change and better the world as a whole. As such, the conversation for change happens here and it is only via free speech that the change can be positive and/or lead to optimal results for all agents involved.


Kaycea is an Associate Professor at Pierce College, teaching Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and related Economic Theory courses, and Department Chair for a division housing the disciplines of Political Science, Economics, Administration of Justice, and Chicano Studies. She teaches economic courses at other colleges within the Los Angeles Community College District (Mission College and West Los Angeles College). She also serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Economics at the University of La Verne and Chapman University instructing both graduate and undergraduate students in Economics and Business courses.

Campbell earned a Economics and Management from Claremont Graduate University in Pomona, Calif., as well as a Master of Arts in Economics from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor's in Economics, Management Studies and Political Science from University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. 

12 pm - 1:20 pm Session #6: John Stuart Mill on Free Speech (Link to YouTube video)

Main Speaker: Robert Taylor, Professor of Political Science, UC Davis

Abstract: This will talk will take a deeper look at the philosophical foundations of free speech and open inquiry through the work of John Stuart Mill. The discussion will examine the underpinning reasons why free speech in a society is vital, and whether or not free speech should be suppressed by either government or societal entities.

Bio: Robert S. Taylor is a professor of political science at the University of California, Davis. He specializes in contemporary analytic political philosophy and the history of liberal political thought. He has written numerous articles on Kant, Mill, Rawls, autonomy, self-ownership, and commercial republicanism, and he published his first book, Reconstructing Rawls: The Kantian Foundations of Justice as Fairness, in 2011. His second book, entitled Exit Left: Markets and Mobility in Republican Thought, was published by Oxford University Press in March 2017.

1:20 pm - 2:50 pm Lunch Break

Registered participants are invited to stay for lunch.


This event is made possible through the support of the John Templeton Foundation, Institute for Humane Studies, Charles Koch Foundation, Sacramento State Center for Practical and Professional Ethics, Cosumnes River College Office of the President, Cosumnes River College Center for Professional Development, Wagenlis Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee, and Access Sacramento.