The Knowlton Visiting Scholar Program brought its marquee event, the Charles W. Knowlton Law and Liberal Arts Lecture, to the USC School of Law last Thursday. Robert Post, dean and Sol and Lillian Goldman Professor of Law at Yale Law School, presented the lecture entitled “Freedom of Speech and the Modern University.”
The lecture discussed evolving university policies and how those policies are changing First Amendment rights on college campuses around the country.
Post’s lecture responded to claims that university policies limit the free speech of students and faculty. He posited that in the modern university there have to be limits and regulations on speech.
“The freedom of speech rights are defined for purposes of self-government. Universities are not about self-government, they’re about education,” Post said. “So speech in universities is regulated so people can be educated or create knowledge.”
Professor Thomas Hughes, a senior lecturer in the Darla Moore School of Business, attended the lecture and commented on how it both challenged and reaffirmed his ideas about campus speech.
“I had always sort of intuited that the academic world is not a democracy, but in fact it doesn’t have the protections of the First Amendment and he enforced that by explaining, and I thought very well, that freedom of speech does not exist on campus,” Hughes said. “Instead it is a educational environment that is sought and consequently it changes my view of that as a good lecture should.”
The Knowlton Visiting Scholar Program was developed in 1989 by USC professors Nathan Crystal and the late Ferdinand Schoeman. The two worked together to create a seminar program to promote interdisciplinary discussion and scholarship among students and faculty.
Previous topics have included ancient law, government and the arts, the status of women and morality. Presenters have included professors from Harvard, Yale, the University of Virginia and others.
Post’s lecture continued the Knowlton Lecture’s goals of blending the law with discussion of liberal arts topics and the discussion of those topics on campus.
“The Supreme Court has said explicitly that in the context of higher education in public universities, a university’s mission is education and the First Amendment does not deny that university’s authority to impose reasonable regulations compatible with that mission on the use of its campus and facilities,” Post said.