UCSD hosts panel on student advocacy and activism


The third annual #Speech Matters conference, hosted by the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, took place on April 20-21. The conference aimed to address extremely relevant topics, including communication during the COVID-19 pandemic and student activism and advocacy. The two-day event invited speakers from across the country, including academics, students and advocates, to discuss and share their expertise and experience.

Day one focused on truth and information, starting with a discussion, moderated by UC President Michael Drake, Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Pien Huang, an NPR health reporter. This was followed by a panel of experts in the field of digital disinformation: Renee DiResta, Alice Marwick and Ebonee Rice, as they discussed their own cutting edge projects and how to resist and challenge fake news. , false narratives and algorithmic biases. The final speaker, Keith Whittington, spoke about his experience as the founder of the Academic Freedom Alliance and the importance of protecting the free speech rights of higher education professors.

Throughout the day, many speakers highlighted the unique position that higher education, and in particular the UC system, occupies in the national conversation on freedom of expression. Michelle deutchman, the executive director of UC’s National Center for Freedom of Expression and Civic Engagement, said: “Ideally, college campuses should be places where people feel free to experiment in terms of thinking and thinking. ideas and try different points of view. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that higher education lives up to this idea for many different reasons, including the cancellation of culture, hyperpolarization, and lack of confidence in higher education. Deutchman also noted that education and service are two of the core values ​​of the unified communications system and that “it is wonderful that the unified communications system, as one of the largest public systems in the world, devote time, resources and energy to thinking about these issues. Not just in a reactive way, but in a proactive and scholarly way.

The second day was dedicated to student advocacy and activism, including a panel of student advocates from across the UC system. UC San Diego senior Syreeta Nolan was one of the guest defenders. Nolan is an advocate for people with disabilities and has done extensive work on resource building and fighting ableism both on and off campus. As a person with a disability herself, Nolan strongly believes in representation within the disability community. Nolan says, “Students with disabilities don’t get the same platforms as students with disabilities. We speak for, but we can’t speak for ourselves. We are not in a position to engage and talk about what it means to be disabled in higher education and the obstacles we face. There’s a lot of toxicity around ableism, and if we never name it, if we never talk about what we’re going through, then no one ever knows what we’re going through.

Nolan further emphasizes the importance of the representation of students with disabilities in higher education with discouraging statistics. “About 26% of our population is considered disabled, then you have 19% undergraduate students, but then you have a big drop: 8% of masters students are disabled, 7% of doctoral students, and that drops to 3.6. % for full teachers with disabilities.

Nolan is just a woman, but she intends to use her voice. “I felt that Speech Matters was a great opportunity to express publicly, in this free speech forum, what we are going through. I was answering so many questions in the Q&A and it was wonderful to see so many people engaging in what it means for disability to be seen as a valuable aspect of diversity and an ally of the community. People with Disabilities.

This conference is just one of the many projects undertaken by the Center; the Center also welcomes monthly webinars, a national scholarship, and voice initiative, a scholarship specific to UC. The Voice Initiative offers a stipend of $ 5,000 to students, staff and faculty who work to promote the mission of the UC Center. You can also consult the recordings and the transcript of the conference. here.

For those interested in Nolan’s work to bring a cultural center for people with disabilities to UCSD, she encourages you to complete this survey. here or consult it item here.

Deutchman strongly believes in the importance of facilitating discussions such as Speech Matters, explaining that “in order to create the campus and the society we want, everyone has a responsibility to use their voice. “

Emily Zou is a writer for The Triton.

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