Former ASUC President Will Morrow, who was named as a fellow for the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, also known as the Free Speech Center, is writing a “playbook” with information and tactics that future student leaders can use when dealing with controversial events and speakers on their college campuses.
The Free Speech Center, which was founded in 2017 by UC President Janet Napolitano, supports a variety of fellows who examine different effects that the national conversation on free speech has had on various topics, such as higher education. Morrow said he applied as a fellow to bring perspectives from former students about the role of free speech in higher education.
“Part of the reason I wanted to pursue this project is that there are things I could have done better as a student leader, in retrospect, involving the events of Milo (Yiannopoulos) and (Ann) Coulter, to avoid some of the scenarios that happened,” Morrow said.
Morrow said he was inspired by events involving controversial speakers coming to college campuses and aims to give student leaders answers on how to best handle the situation when they are thrown unexpectedly into the spotlight.
Outside political forces may manipulate student leaders into political agendas that often aren’t in the best interests of the students, according to Morrow. He added that he hopes the playbook will prepare student leaders to be ready for these kinds of interferences, as well as the possibility of gaining national attention from these controversial events.
Gamelyn Oduardo-Sierra, the legal counsel to the University of Puerto Rico’s chancellor, is another fellow at the Free Speech Center who is working to create an online free speech database on the rights granted by multiple forms of free speech, such as the freedom of assembly. He said he looks forward to working with the Free Speech Center and with Morrow.
“I believe that the playbook is a right step in the right direction for the development and discussion of 1st Amendment protections,” Oduardo-Sierra said.
In order to write the playbook, Morrow said he plans to visit schools that have hosted controversial events and meet with students in order to gauge their responses to the events and the challenges that accompany them.
The playbook will be presented publicly next winter and will be available to institutions with connections to student organizations on campuses across the nation, Morrow said.
“When controversial speakers come to a campus, that campus is spotlighted in a way that draws scrutiny to the politics and policies of that university in an extraordinary way,” Morrow said. “This playbook will hopefully illuminate some of the concerns and experiences of student leaders across the political spectrum from various universities to provide insight for future student leaders.”