First Amendment Conference

Shall Make No Law: An Exploration of Current First Amendment Issues on College Campuses

A Two-Day Conference of the State University of New York Office of General Counsel

First Amendment Conference logo

April 11 & 12, 2018 at
Campus Center, University at Albany

On December 15, 1791, a majority of States had ratified the Bill of Rights. The First and Primary among them is also the most intricate and arguably the most important for a strong Democracy.

Ben Franklin Quote: Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.

Just over 225 years later, Counsel’s Office hosted a SUNY-only conference to cover in-depth aspects of the First Amendment relevant to campus professionals. We invited State-op and Community College professionals who have responsibilities wherein questions of speech, religion, assembly, or the press arise to join us for introductory and expert level presentations, keynote addresses, lively debates, and more.

Presentations from the Conference:

Commercial Speech - What is it and How is it Protected

Counter-Demonstrations and Opposition Speech on Campus: What the Heck is the Hecklers Veto?

Extra, Extra! Read All About It! Issues In Student Press, Publications, And Censorship

It's All Academic - Freedom That Is!

OMG, that Person is Offending Me! - Student Activism and Campus Unrest

Politics, Politics, and More Politics - What is a Campus to Do?

The State of Church and State at SUNY - Freedom of Religion: Students and Employees on Campus & Use of Public Facilities by Religious Groups

Conference Highlights:

Keynote Speaker

Hon. Robert S. Smith

Hon. Robert S. Smith (Ret.)

The Honorable Robert S. Smith (Ret.) is head of the appellate practice at Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman LLP in New York.  He served as Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, from 2004-2014.  Before serving on the Court of Appeals, Judge Smith practiced law in New York City.  He has argued dozens of appeals before federal and State appellate courts, including two appeals before the United States Supreme Court.

Judge Smith graduated with great distinction in 1965 from Stanford University and received his law degree, magna cum laude, in 1968 from Columbia Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review.  He later taught at Columbia, from 1980 until 1990, and at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law from 2006 until 2015.

April 11, 2018  |  3:30 - 5:00pm
Closing Plenary:

Campus Unrest - the New Normal? Balancing the Right to Free Expression with Campus Values of Safety, Diversity, and Inclusion

Not a week goes by without another First Amendment controversy hitting the headlines. Sometimes it feels like colleges and universities are in a constant state of unrest. Institutions of higher learning are supposed to be the “marketplace of ideas” where inquiry, discovery, and scholarship flourish. But what happens when these intellectual hubs are exposed to ideas and expressions that hurt, offend, and shock the conscience of an increasingly diverse student population? How can institutions reconcile the competing interests? This moderated panel discussion will explore issues of campus unrest and the challenges of protecting free speech on campus while promoting a safe, diverse, and inclusive learning environment for all.

Moderator:Rex Smith, Moderator, Editor, Times UnionRex Smith
Editor, Times Union
Aviva Abramovsky, Dean, University at Buffalo School of LawAviva Abramovsky
Dean, University at Buffalo School of Law
William Creeley, Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Advocacy, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)William Creeley
Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Advocacy, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
Tanhena Pacheco Dunn Tanhena Pacheco Dunn
Associate Vice President for Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion, Chief Diversity Officer & Title IX Coordinator, SUNY New Paltz
Deborah Stanley, President, SUNY OswegoDeborah Stanley
President, SUNY Oswego
April 12, 2018  |  9:30 - 10:30am
Opening Plenary:

The First Amendment: A View From Washington

As colleges and universities work to find a balance under the First Amendment, institutions across the country are engaged in similar work. Concurrently, members of Congress and the Department of Education are engaged in legislating and regulating under the First Amendment at a level unseen in modern times. In this session, hear from experts from inside and outside the beltway as they provide the national view, discuss trends in legislation and regulation and what to expect in the coming months and years, and outline the various approaches of policy leaders to First Amendment issues on campus.

Moderator: Jim Malatras Jim Malatras
President, Rockefeller Institute of Government
 Peter McDonoughPeter McDonough
Vice President and General Counsel, American Council on Education (ACE)
 Craig Lindwarm Craig Lindwarm
Assistant Vice President, Congressional & Governmental Affairs
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  Joseph Storch
Associate Counsel, State University of New York