First Amendment Studies

First Amendment Scholar Program - FASP

The Plan II Honors Program partners with Philosophy Professor Tara Smith in sponsoring the First Amendment Scholars Program. Each spring, this group is composed of roughly a dozen Plan II students and a handful of UT faculty from diverse disciplines who are interested in exploring the ideals of the First Amendment and their implications in legal, political, and moral contexts. The Program seeks to stimulate a deeper understanding of the meaning, foundations, and implications of the First Amendment through readings, discussions, and dialogues across disciplinary and academic boundaries.

 In the spring of 2020, the focus will be on Freedom of the Press. The highlight will be a public lecture by Sam Lebovic, a history Professor at George Mason University and author of the book Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America. (

 Professor Lebovic will present the public lecture on the evening of March 5, 2020 in the Joynes Room (Carothers Hall - 2501 Whitis - Map). The next morning (March 6), FASP participants will hold a seminar discussion with Professor Lebovic, followed by lunch. This will provide Program students with the opportunity to have more intensive and more personal engagement with Professor Lebovic.

 Three other discussion meetings will take place before (January 30, February 13) and after (March 26) Professor Lebovic’s visit. These discussions will revolve around articles, essays, or events tied to Press Freedom and the more specific subject of Professor Lebovic’s lecture.


Students must submit a brief response to the following ("brief" here means up to 500 words):

Which aspects of press freedom are you most keen to examine more closely? Suppose you were hosting a small dinner party to discuss the First Amendment more broadly and you could invite any three people – alive or dead. Who would you invite to be in on the conversation, and why? How would you expect them to enlighten the conversation? Finally, how do you think that you can contribute to the group’s discussions?

Note: Please apply only if you think you can attend Professor Lebovic’s lecture, seminar, and the three discussion meetings. (January 30, February 13, March 5, 6, and 26)


  • Any Plan II students at The University of Texas at Austin, regardless of their area of study.


  • Responses must be no more than 500 words in length (please provide the word count).
  • Responses must be typed in 12-point font in English, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins and numbered pages.
  • Applications may be either hand delivered or physically mailed. No e-mailed or texted or faxed entries will be accepted.
  • Provide three stapled copies of your response, along with a completed and signed Application Form.
  • Mailed applications must be postmarked by Friday, November 15, 2019.
  • Hand-delivered applications must be submitted by Friday, November 15, 2019.


Mailing Address:

FASP c/o Roxy Becker
Department of Philosophy
University of Texas at Austin
2210 Speedway, Stop C3500
Austin, Texas 78712

Drop Off Locations for Hand Delivery:

Waggener (WAG) 231 – please slide under the door

Waggener (WAG) 316 – Mailbox for Roxy Becker - Note: this office is only open Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm

Please note that no materials will be returned.


Organizations Related to the First Amendment

A listing of some organizations devoted to different aspects of the First Amendment.

Note: These organizations are listed merely to provide a convenient reference point for those interested in further research. Inclusion does not represent endorsement of the activities or positions advocated by any of these groups.


Controversy-sparking campus incidents

2007 Mahmoud Ahdmadinejad lecture at Columbia University

Here’s a summary of what happened, as reported by the AP:

And here’s a longer cut of Columbia President Lee Bollinger’s introduction:

Recent article in Daily Texan re: free speech

Free Speech Principles