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COMMON READING PROGRAM FOR THE CLASS OF 2023


WELCOME CLASS OF 2023 On behalf of the university’s faculty and the 2019 Common Reading Program, we welcome you to Washington University in St. Louis! We’re very excited you will soon be joining us, and we are busy preparing for your arrival. The Common Reading Program initiates your intellectual college experience and highlights the essence of your education—habits of inquiry and debate that underlie effective citizenship in communities beyond the self. Throughout the first semester, you will encounter themes from the book in classes, discussions, and on-campus programming. As part of the 17th annual Common Reading Program, you will be participating in what we anticipate will be a dynamic

Holden Thorp

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor Departments of Chemistry and Medicine Washington University in St. Louis

and thought-provoking discussion of the book, HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship, by Nadine Strossen. Strossen, a professor of constitutional law at New York Law School and prominent civil liberties advocate, argues that in divisive times, we should engage deeply in our democracy, defending, rather than limiting, free speech. She addresses common misconceptions that have permeated the debate surrounding hate speech and free speech citing both national and international examples. Strossen encourages readers to engage, not through censorship, but through informed “counterspeech.” Regardless of your academic interests or extracurricular passions, while at WashU you have the opportunity to engage deeply in meaningful dialogues. In your studies here, you will address the great problems of the world. Those underlying our approach to how we communicate with one another are certainly among the greatest facing society. But so are climate change, inequity, hunger, international conflict, and disease. These are difficult topics, but we believe in the passion and fortitude that you bring to education and in all the great work you will do at WashU and beyond.

WELCOME, BEARS. LET’S GET STARTED. 1 | Common Reading Program

Lori S. White

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Professor of Practice, Department of Education Washington University in St. Louis


In her award-winning book, HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship, Nadine Strossen explores ideas and challenges regarding the regulation of hate speech. These ideas are pertinent to you as you start your journey at WashU. Strossen states that hate speech laws should not be created beyond the laws the United States currently upholds. Although many of Strossen’s arguments start with constitutionality, she moves on to question the effectiveness of stopping what some call hate speech versus the effectiveness of counter-speech. During Bear Beginnings, you will discuss, debate, and engage these concepts with your peers in a conversation guided by

Lizzie Michalski Class of 2021

a faculty member. This program serves as the first of many academic traditions you will take part of as you start your WashU experience. College will be a very transformative experience for you and we look forward to being a part of it. It is my hope that at WashU you will continute to build your voice and not just prepare, but also begin to make a positive impact on the world. I encourage you to create positive change in society by taking Strossen’s challenge to “exercise what is the most essential right of all… the right not to remain silent.”

SEE YOU ON CAMPUS! Washington University in St. Louis | 2


ABOUT THE BOOK

HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech,

attacked Black Lives Matter protests as

Not Censorship dispels misunderstandings

hate speech.

plaguing our perennial debates about “hate speech vs. free speech,” showing that

Hate speech censorship proponents stress the

the First Amendment approach promotes

potential harms such speech might further:

free speech and democracy, equality,

discrimination, violence, and psychic injuries.

and societal harmony. We hear too many

However, there has been little analysis of

incorrect assertions that hate speech—which

whether censorship effectively counters the

has no generally accepted definition—is

feared injuries. Citing evidence from many

either absolutely unprotected or absolutely

countries, this book shows that hate speech

protected from censorship. Rather, U.S. law

laws are at best ineffective and at worst

allows government to punish hateful or

counterproductive. Their inevitably vague

discriminatory speech in specific contexts

terms invest enforcing officials with broad

when it directly causes imminent serious

discretion, and predictably, regular targets

harm. Yet, government may not punish

are minority views and speakers. Therefore,

such speech solely because its message is

prominent social justice advocates in the

disfavored, disturbing, or vaguely feared to

U.S. and beyond maintain that the best

possibly contribute to some future harm.

way to resist hate and promote equality

When U.S. officials formerly wielded such

is not censorship, but rather, vigorous

broad censorship power, they suppressed

“counterspeech” and activism.

dissident speech, including equal rights advocacy. Likewise, current politicians have 3 | Common Reading Program

—OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS


ASSIGNMENT INSTRUCTIONS Part of your participation in the Common Reading Program requires that you email your discussion leader a 250-word response to one of the following questions by Wednesday, August 14, 2019 at 12:00 PM CST. We will send you the name and contact information for your group discussion leader in early August. Your submission will only be read by the faculty or staff member leading your discussion group.

THE AUTHOR Nadine Strossen served as the first female president of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1991 to 2008 and continues to serve as a member of the ACLU’s National Advisory Council. An expert on the Constitution, she has made thousands of media appearances including ones on 60 Minutes, CBS Sunday Morning, Today, Good Morning America, and The Daily Show and has written op-eds for The New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, USA Today, and others. In 2017, Strossen was presented with the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award by the American Bar Association and was named one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America” twice by The National Law Journal. She currently serves as a professor at New York Law School.

1. U  sing examples from HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship and media coverage of current higher education topics, illustrate how themes of freedom of expression may intersect with your experiences as a student at Washington University in St. Louis. 2. In HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship, Strossen argues that hate speech is an inherently subjective concept. Using examples from the book and media coverage of current higher education topics, present your argument on the subjective or objective nature of hate speech. 3. D  escribe how “counterspeech” could be used to address current divisions within our society. Cite examples from the book and current events, domestic or global. Discuss whether you believe “counterspeech” could be used to positively impact a divided community. 4. H  ATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship argues we should engage in more dialogue on important issues versus censoring controversial speech. Do you agree? Cite examples from the book and current events to support your perspective. QUESTIONS? Please contact 314.935.5040 or commonreadingprogram@wustl.edu. Washington University in St. Louis | 4


CONTEST GUIDELINES Strossen argues the importance of addressing ideas that we disagree with using “counterspeech” rather than censorship. Throughout history, individuals and communities have used creative mediums to express their own “counterspeech.” Examples of dissent abound in creative mediums as diverse as operas, pop art, poetry, TV, fiction, and cartoons. Using any creative medium (visual art, poetry, music, written prose, etc.) produce a piece of “counterspeech” that demonstrates your opposition to an idea. If you are submitting a written entry, please limit it to a maximum length of 750 words. The contest is open to all members of Washington University in St. Louis Class of 2023.

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IMPORTANT DATES TUESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2019 NOON CST Assignment Due: Email to your faculty or staff discussion leader

TUESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2019 2:30 PM–4:00 PM CST Common Reading Program discussions during Bear Beginnings

FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2019 NOON CST Contest Submissions Due For more information on the Common Reading Program, upcoming events, and other resources, visit firstyear.wustl.edu.

Please email your submission to commonreadingprogram@wustl.edu by Friday, August 30, 2019 at Noon CST. The contest winners will have the opportunity for a special meet and greet with the Common Reading Program Assembly Series speaker. Additionally, the grand prize winner will also receive a $100 shopping spree at the Washington University Campus Store.

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COMMON READING PROGRAM Campus Box 1136 One Brookings Drive St. Louis, MO 63130-4899 firstyear.wustl.edu 314.935.5040

Profile for WU First Year Center

Common Reading Program Guide 2019  

The companion reader's guide to the 2019 Common Reading Program selection. In this guide, you will find the instructions for the assignment...

Common Reading Program Guide 2019  

The companion reader's guide to the 2019 Common Reading Program selection. In this guide, you will find the instructions for the assignment...