By David Gordon, Associate Editor
Free Speech Week events at the University of Wisconsin-Stout will continue this evening (Oct. 19) with a panel discussion presenting “Three Perspectives on Confederate Monuments, Flags and Symbolism.”
This will be the final panel discussion on the week’s schedule. It will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Micheels 290. A high school First Amendment workshop will conclude the week’s programming on Saturday morning.
As with all Free Speech Week events, this evening’s program is free and open to the public.
This week’s events have been organized by the UW-Stout Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation (CSII). The center was established earlier this year with a $425,000 grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.
The UW-System Board of Regents adopted a policy governing on-campus freedom of speech when it met earlier this month at UW-Stout.
Panelists at Monday’s lively opening discussion of free speech on college campuses were UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer; Tim Higgins, a member of the Board of Regents; and journalist and author John Nichols. Timothy Shiell, director of the CSII, was the moderator.
Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, a writer on electoral politics and public policy for The Nation magazine and the author of seven books. Shiell is a professor in UW-Stout’s English and Philosophy department.
The Charles Koch Foundation grant that established the CSII is renewable for an additional three years, subject to agreement by the foundation and the university. The foundation is one of at least four charitable organizations funded by the Koch family which contribute to libertarian and conservative causes as well as to the arts and higher education.
Week’s Events Launch CSII Programming
Shiell said the Free Speech Week events have launched the center’s public programming.
“Free Speech Week is an annual national event celebrated by dozens of universities and organizations across the country,” Shiell said in a press release. “It is a perfect fit with our mission to promote the civil and rational discussion of civil liberties like free speech and their relationships to institutions and innovation.”
Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, a UW-Eau Claire History professor whose specialties include the development of the American civil rights movement, will be one of this evening’s panelists. She will be joined by Bob Zeidel, a UW-Stout History faculty member, and Shane Miller, an Applied Social Science student at UW-Stout. Patrick Guilfoile, UW-Stout Provost, will be the moderator.
The complete schedule for the week is available at: https://tinyurl.com/yd4khu2p.
A Place for “Civil and Rational Debate”
The university has described the CSII as a place to facilitate “civil and rational debate reflecting a diversity of perspectives” on civil liberties and related issues. According to a UW-Stout website, it “will provide leadership in Wisconsin and beyond on issues pertaining to civil liberty and related institutions (governmental, civic, business, social, scientific, religious, etc.) and innovations through scholarly inquiry, educational activities and community outreach.”
It is housed in UW-Stout’s College of Arts, Communication, Humanities and Social Science, and will be subject to UW- System, UW-Stout, and Stout University Foundation policies and procedures.
Koch Foundation Grant Sparked Criticism
When the Charles Koch Foundation grant was announced last spring, it drew criticism from some quarters because of the political positions and activities of Charles and David Koch and their allies. Meyer stressed at the time that the grant came “with no strings attached” and wrote to the campus community that the agreement “guarantees complete control and academic freedom on the part of the university in the operation of the center and the programming the center will provide.”
The Charles Koch Foundation has provided support to more than 300 colleges and universities, according to its website. Among them are UW-Madison, UW-La Crosse, the University of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Others on the list include Columbia University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago and Yale University.
More information about the CSII can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/y7o5w542
Note: A discussion of some of the questions and concerns inherent in writing this story can be found in a “Behind the Post” column elsewhere on this website.