Public free-speech forum will encourage expression, critical thinking, debate
TOWSON, Md. (Sept. 16, 2010)—On Friday, Sept. 17, Towson University will launch Freedom Square, an open, outdoor space dedicated to free speech and public debate. Located in the newly renovated area between the Lecture Hall and Hawkins Hall, the space provides a forum for members of the campus community to express opinions and deliberate issues of civic concern.
The grand opening of Freedom Square coincides with the 223rd anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. The launch celebration to be held at 2 p.m. will include a dedication ceremony, remarks by TU administrators and the SGA, and performances by student groups to demonstrate the power of open discussion and ideas.
The creation of the Freedom Square space was a joint initiative between TU’s Civic Engagement Advisory Council, the SGA and Facilities Management. The area boasts space for meetings and debate, and features a series of permanent chalkboards to spark student expression. Each week, a new question will be proposed to the community via the boards, and students will have the opportunity to write their own responses in the public venue. The student responses will not be edited or altered.
“It’s a free speech zone,” says James Roberts, professor of political science and chairperson for the TU Political Engagement Subcommittee. “So anything goes. Students can respond openly and we won’t erase it—until the following week when the question changes.” However, the university’s policy prohibiting hate speech remains in effect.
“Although this project was set up with the assistance of faculty and staff, it will be completely run by students and student organizations such as the SGA. Students will choose the question each week, and students will organize the space,” says Roberts.
The first question will be unveiled at Friday’s launch celebration.