I am in Orem, Utah after speaking at the Constitution Day celebrations at Utah Valley University and its conference on privacy in America. I will be returning today but hope to catch one of the panels today at this extraordinary event of the Utah Valley University’s Center for Constitutional Studies. Yesterday, I spoke twice on free speech issues. My first speech was on private actors limiting free speech, the “little brother” problem. The speech (and those of my panelists) was followed by a panel discussion with with New York University and University of Chicago professor Richard Epstein and UCLA professor Eugene Volokh. Later I spoke again on media and free speech followed by a panel with New York Times columnist Stanley Fish.
Both panels were extremely interesting. The first panel included an interesting presentation by Volokh on laws protecting free speech outside of the workplace and a detailed discussion by Epstein of how union laws can restrict speech. We then had a lively discussion and exchanges with the audience. I particularly like catching up with Epstein who also teaches torts and is the author of the casebook that I use at George Washington. Epstein is a towering figure among libertarian scholars. Volokh and I had some great conversations as legal bloggers with many overlapping interests. His blog Volokh Conspiracy remains a fabulous site that has now associated with The Washington Post.
The second panel which included presentations by media expert Lindsay Hoffman and expert on health information Deborah Peel, was particularly lively. Fish, who has long supported limits on free speech and I were obviously polar opposites. If the idea was to have us butt heads, we did not disappoint. We sharply disagreed about the role and essence of free speech. Fish takes a purely instrumental view of free speech and sees censorship as a component to free speech. I take a more normative view of free speech and oppose most limitations. It was even more lively with Epstein in the audience who threw into the melee over free speech.
We finished the conference with a lunch with President Matthew Holland that was prepared by the school’s culinary studies department, which is always an incredible treat with music from school’s celebrated music program.
I have had the pleasure of speaking at the Center for Constitutional Studies in prior years and watch this university grow from a community college to the largest university in the state. The greatest success story of the university is the Center run by Professor Rick Griffin as the founder and director of the Center. Griffin has made the Center an international forum for constitutional discussions — a fitting model given the nearby Sundance festival has done for the arts. Indeed, we all went to dinner at Sundance at its amazing restaurant in the gorgeous mountains of Robert Redford’s oasis. I took a few pictures of the location which is breathtaking with the changing of the trees.
I am always sorry to leave Utah, which remains one of my favorite places on Earth. However, tomorrow I will again debate Berkeley Professor John Yoo at the Constitution Day event sponsored by Hillsdale College at the JW Marriott in Washington, D.C. at 10:45 am.
Thank you everyone in Orem and Utah Valley University!