First Amendment Studies

Freedom of Academic Speech

Presented by the BB&T Dialogue Series on Free Speech

A Panel Discussion

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

5:30 PM

LOCATION: College of Liberal Arts Building (CLA) 1.302B 


ROBERT O'NEIL - Former President, University of Virginia,  College of Law

AMY GAJDA- Professor, Tulane University Law School

STEVE SANDERS - Professor, Indiana University, College of Law

Panel Moderator: DAVID RABBAN - Professor, The University of Texas at Austin School of Law


  • Speech Codes, Trigger Warnings
  • Civility – appropriate constraint? disguise for silencing?
  • Scholarly speech and private speech – is there a difference?
  • Controversial speakers on campus – who should be heard? And who shouldn't be?
  • Do digital media change the rules?


Robert O'NeilROBERT O'NEIL is the former President of the University of Virginia, which he led from 1985-90. Before coming to Virginia, he had been President of the University of Wisconsin System, Chancellor and Vice President of Indiana University--Bloomington, and Provost of the University of Cincinnati. 

A law professor, Mr. O’Neil is a long-time student of free speech and has worked closely on its place in the academy, having served as General Counsel of the American Association of University Professors and chair of its Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, as well as subcommittees on Academic Freedom in Secondary Schools, Academic Freedom in Medical Schools, Academic Freedom in Time of Crisis, and Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications. He was the Founding Director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Expression, a non-profit, non-partisan research and policy institute based in Charlottesville. 

After earning his law degree from Harvard, O’Neil worked as a Clerk for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. His several books include Discriminating Against DiscriminationFree Speech in the College Community; and Academic Freedom in the Wired World

Amy GajdaAMY GAJDA is a law professor at Tulane University, where she teaches the law of Higher Education, Information Privacy Law, Media Law, and Torts, among other things. An internationally recognized expert in these areas, Professor Gajda brings a deep background in journalism to her work, having been an award-winning television news anchor and reporter with stations in several states. For over ten years, she hosted a weekly segment on Illinois National Public Radio stations called Legal Issues in the News. She also hosted Illinois Law, a live-interview television program that focused on legal issues making headlines.

Author of numerous scholarly articles, Gajda's book The First Amendment Bubble: How Privacy and Paparazzi Threaten a Free Press (2015, Harvard University Press) explores judicial oversight of journalistic news judgment. Her first book, The Trials of Academe (2009, Harvard), focused on academic freedom.

Gajda practiced law in Washington, D.C., before starting her teaching career at the University of Illinois. She has chaired the Association of American Law Schools’ Section on Defamation and Privacy and its Section on Mass Communication, and she led the Law and Policy Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. At Tulane, Professor Gajda has won the law school’s highest honor for Distinguished Teaching.

Steve SandersSTEVE SANDERS is a law professor at Indiana University, where he is also formally affiliated with the departments of Political Science, Gender Studies, and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. His scholarly interests focus on academic freedom in higher education, constitutional issues in the regulation of marriage and the family, and Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence.

Before turning to law, Professor Sanders worked in higher education administration for 16 years, serving (among other positions) as an Assistant Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, where he chaired the committee that guided domestic partner benefits to unanimous approval by the IU Board of Trustees.

After graduating from the University of Michigan’s law school, Sanders clerked for the Hon. Terence T. Evans on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. He practiced with the firm Mayer Brown for several years, particularly focusing on representation of university faculty members on matters involving academic freedom. He continues to represent clients filing amicus briefs on matters involving sexual orientation or academic freedom and was a member of the 2008 Obama campaign's national LGBT steering and policy committee.

A frequent commentator on legal issues regarding both sexuality and higher education, Sanders has written for such venues as the Huffington PostChronicle of Higher EducationSCOTUSBlogNew Republic, Chicago Tribune, and Boston Globe, and has done commentaries or interviews with numerous media, including National Public Radio, the Associated Press, Congressional Quarterly, Good Morning America, Marketplace, and the Washington Blade.


David Rabban DAVID RABBAN is a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining the Texas faculty in 1983, Professor Rabban served as counsel to the American Association of University Professors for several years. He served as General Counsel of the AAUP from 1998 to 2006 and as Chair of its Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure from 2006 to 2012.

Professor Rabban’s teaching and research focus on labor law, higher education, and American legal history. Best known for his path-breaking work on free speech in American history, he is the author of Free Speech in Its Forgotten Years, 1870-1920 (Cambridge, 1997), which received the Forkosch Prize from the Journal of the History of Ideas for "the best book in intellectual history published in 1997." His numerous articles have appeared in such venues as the Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, and University of Chicago Law Review.

Rabban was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. in 1994-95, and has also been a Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan Law School. His most recent book is Law's History: American Legal Thought and the Transatlantic Turn to History.

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