Longtime civil rights attorney and scholar Frederick M. Lawrence will examine “Free Speech vs. Hate Speech: The Changing Contours of Free Expression” in a lecture that will be live streamed from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York to the Sanders Classroom Building, Spitzer Auditorium (room 212) on Monday, March 28 at 7:30pm. A post-lecture discussion immediately after at Vassar will be facilitated by psychology professors Abigail Baird and Dara Greenwood, and Rachel Pereira, Director of Equal Opportunity and Title IX Officer. This campus event is sponsored by the college’s Dialogue and Engagement Across Differences Fund.
Among the key questions Lawrence addresses in his lecture will be: Can we protect free speech in public spaces and still protect against genuine threatening behavior, and speak out against racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic activities?
Lawrence is a Senior Research Scholar in Law at Yale Law School and a specialist on civil rights, free expression, and bias crimes. In the 1980s he was Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Civil Rights Unit for the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. He is the author of Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes Under American Law (Harvard University Press, 1999), and has testified before Congress in support of federal bias crimes legislation. Lawrence was a professor at Boston University School of Law from 1988–2005, and for the next five years the dean of the George Washington University Law School. Lawrence then served as president of Brandeis University from 2011 to 2015, where he also continues to be a professor of political science.
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Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.