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WU-mester 2019

WU-mester 2019

What is WU-mester?

WU-mester is a new initiative intended to foster a university-wide conversation on a different diversity-related topic that will change each spring semester. The goal of the program is to engage the entire WU community in a collective learning experience on timely subjects and help students see the connections between the subjects they study in the classroom and real-world debates and problems.

The Spring 2019 Topic

The Spring 2019 Topic

Freedom of Speech and Expression

These often-paired ideas about freedom — who can speak and what can be spoken — are  fundamental to democracy. And, the debate about them is as old as democracy itself, with roots in ancient Greece. In contemporary understanding, they are the right of every individual to hold his or her own opinions and to express those opinions. These rights are guaranteed in the first amendment of the U.S. constitution and recognized under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  

What’s more, freedom of speech and expression are paramount to intellectual life on college campuses, including Washburn's. Challenging ideas and perceptions makes way for new understanding and the production of new knowledge. The accessibility of information and sharing of information is essential for this process. This is true across the full range of academic disciplines.

Free speech, however, comes with a cost. Speech can, after all, offend. Certain types of speech are seen as marginalizing, hateful and painful, especially to those who have been traditionally excluded from power, including racial and ethnic minorities, gender minorities, religious minorities, ideological dissidents and others. Nor has free speech ever been seen as an absolute right, as the classic “shouting fire in a crowded theater” example shows. The question, then, becomes one of balancing rights: finding the correct balance between free expression and the rights of individuals to security and privacy.

WU-mester 2019 will examine the concept of the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression from the perspective of academic disciplines across campus and through a variety of co-curricular programming. It will explore their importance to our intellectual pursuits and to our democracy. Such analyses will help us engage in rigorous debate as we also insist on respect for the historically marginalized and excluded.   


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Washburn University prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, national origin, ancestry, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, veteran status, or marital or parental status. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Dr. Pamela Foster, Equal Opportunity Director/Title IX Coordinator, Washburn University, 1700 SW College Ave, Topeka, Kansas 66621, 785.670.1509,

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