Thursday’s Community Action Talk to focus on free speech

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Bryan Samuel, chief diversity and inclusion officer, spoke to the community on K-State's mission to promote racial equality on the morning Juneteenth Celebration on June 19, 2020. (File Photo by Sarah Unruh | Collegian Media Group)

The upcoming Community Action Talk will focus on free speech issues related to college campuses on Thursday.

Chief diversity officer Bryan Samuel said the topic was chosen because there have been national and local incidents causing concern.

“That’s always a very interesting and delicate topic to think about,” Samuel said. “We have the right to free assembly and the right to free speech and the things that we can say with impunity. There’s never a real consensus or understanding about what exactly is right.”

Five panelists and a moderator will speak over Zoom about free speech and other First Amendment rights.

The members are:

  • Shari Crittendon, general counsel, moderator
  • Christy Craft, special education, counseling and student affairs professor, panelist
  • Thomas Lane, vice president for student life and dean of students, panelist
  • April Petillo, American ethnic studies assistant professor, panelist
  • Nikhil Moro, journalism associate professor, panelist
  • Natalia Rodriguez, junior in human resources management and Spanish, panelist

Samuel said they will answer questions from the audience and talk about their experiences.

“Certainly we have free speech and we can share our opinions and that kind of thing, but we also need to understand what do some of these things mean for the health of our [campus] environment, to help the health of our university community,” Samuel said.

K-State has had several instances of students calling for other students to be reprimanded for things they said. This summer, the K-State football team held a strike after another student posted a controversial tweet about George Floyd following his death. Additionally, students called for that student’s expulsion, but President Richard Myers said Kansas State “cannot violate the law.”

“We’ve had some concerns about statements that people have made in our university community,” Samuel said. “We’re really trying to understand the line and … how to deal effectively with the topic.”

Samuel hopes the panel will help students understand what crosses the line. He said some things may be hurtful or insensitive, but are still protected as free speech.

“[This will help if] any student anywhere would actually do or say something,” Samuel said. “What that looks like and how do we … live out our Principles of Community. How do we acknowledge and demonstrate what it means to be a Wildcat.”

Previously, these conversations have covered the Black Lives Matter movement and matters related to COVID-19.

The Community Action Talk can be found on the Division of Diversity and Inclusion website. If students can’t attend the virtual event, Samuel said it will be recorded and posted on the same website.

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Bailey Britton
My name is Bailey Britton and I am the editor-in-chief of the Collegian. Previously, I have been the assistant news editor and the managing editor. I have also interned for the Manhattan Mercury and the Colby Free Press. I grew up in Colby, Kansas, and I am a junior in journalism and English. Through the Collegian, I aim to provide the K-State community with quality news coverage while we learn to serve our campus.