Carnegie Mellon University

Grand Challenge First-Year Seminar: Freedom of Speech & Academic Freedom

Course Number: 66-141

This Grand Challenge course offers a comprehensive exploration of the principles, controversies, and significance of Freedom of Speech (FOS) and Academic Freedom (AF). By exploring actual and hypothetical cases, students will analyze the complex dilemmas that arise when we try to balance two interests: maximizing freedom of expression and creating an inclusive, respectful community.

By engaging a wide range of disciplinary perspectives and methods of inquiry from philosophy, history, psychology, law, etc., students will examine how different policies and norms impact these competing interests and vice versa. Students will practice informed and constructive dialogue within the seminar to facilitate independent thought, rigorous inquiry, and how to discuss difficult topics productively.

Course topics will include:

  • the rights and responsibilities involved in FOS for both individuals and institutions,
  • the history and current state of the law with respect to FOS,
  • the history and state of university policies and practices about AF for research and education, including scholarship, artistic freedom, teaching, in particular trigger warnings, safe spaces, censorship, protest, and controversial outside speakers,
  • developmental perspectives on how children learn about freedom of expression,
  • FOS in advertising, media, and social media, including recommendation algorithms.

The broader goal is to empower students to become informed, responsible, and productive members of Carnegie Mellon’s transformative university community.

Academic Year: 2023-2024
Semester(s): Fall