Written by: Dr. Scott Meachum, Assistant Professor of Political Science

On August 12, 2019, the University of North Georgia held its inaugural LEADS (Learning, Engagement, Achievement, Development, and Service) Day. The programs coincided with the Faculty-Staff Convocation Ceremony and was designed to provide professional development seminars to faculty and staff across the Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses. I worked with Jenna Colvin, General Counsel for the University, and Alyson Paul, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, to design, implement, and lead two different sessions that focused on various issues associated with the freedom of speech and its implications for colleges and universities. We presented the sessions in both Dahlonega and Gainesville.

The first session, titled “Free Speech and Inclusion on Campus,” addressed the tensions that exist between simultaneously encouraging the free exchange of ideas and promoting diversity and inclusion on campus. In addition to providing information on UNG’s policies, and the current state of the law, we worked with participants to help them gain an understanding and appreciation not just for the notion that people will invariably have differing views on particular issues but that people also have differing opinions on the broader topics of speech and inclusion and how the campus community should deal with them.

The second session, “Leading in the Marketplace: Student Speech in the Classroom,” was designed with faculty in mind. In particular, we focused on strategies for use in a classroom setting where discussion and participation are encouraged but particular student speech might be disruptive, inappropriate, offensive, or hostile. That particular discussion encouraged faculty to share stories about their own experiences and work with colleagues to develop approaches to leading productive discussions that suit the goals of classroom instruction.

Based on positive feedback and comments from those who participated, as well as those of us who led the sessions, a much more substantial program is currently being planned, and I am serving on the working group for that effort.

Dr. Meachum received his Ph.D. and master’s degrees in political science from Florida State University. He also has a law degree from the West Virginia University College of Law.