2020-2021                  Andrea Mitchell Center Faculty Workshop Series                  2020-2021

Free speech has re-emerged in recent years as a significant political rallying cry, as political polarization and shifting cultural sensitivities have worked  to intensify the struggles in many democratic countries over the boundaries of acceptable speech.  These struggles are far from new, but in the contemporary context emerging media platforms have presented new challenges to the regulation and protection of open expression. In this environment, businesses and civil-society organizations throughout the world contend with issues of political speech and related boycotts, while in the U.S., social and legal developments require us to rethink our interpretations and implementation of the First Amendment. In its 2020-2021 theme year, FREE SPEECH BATTLES, The Andrea Mitchell Center examines both the contentious history of free expression and the ongoing developments that have made it once again a central issue in democratic societies.



MARK THOMPSON Outgoing CEO, New York Times

Tue. October 13, 5:00-6:30 pm / Zoom links emailed to attendees

SERIOUS INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM FACES two existential threats: economic destruction because of the failure of so many news organizations to find an adequate response to the digital challenge; and political and cultural rejection, not just by a new generation of populist leaders but by activists and pressure groups across the ideological spectrum. MARK THOMPSON, the outgoing CEO of The New York Times and a former Director-General of the BBC, explores these two – profoundly interconnected threats – and proposes how the news business can fight back and secure its own future.


This event is also the Annenberg Lecture. It is co-sponsored by the Annenberg School for
, the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and the Center for Media @ Risk.



On the latest episode of the Mitchell Center Podcast, former ACLU president NADINE STROSSEN makes the case against censoring hate speech.
Listen to all episodes at


Mark Thompson Former CEO, New York Times

Keep Calm and Carry On

Joan Wallach Scott Institute for Advanced Study

The Right Has Weaponized
Free Speech

Geoffrey R. Stone University of Chicago

Final Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression


Hank Reichman /Joan Scott

john powell / Nadine Strossen

Geoffrey Stone


FREE SPEECH BATTLES is a year-long program of events organized at the Andrea Mitchell Center by the FREE SPEECH BATTLES Planning Committee: Sigal Ben Porath, Chair (GSE); Joe Lowry (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations); Sophia Rosenfeld (History); Amy Sepinwall (Wharton); Tukufu Zuberi (Sociology); Jeffrey Green, Mitchell Center Director (Political Science); and Matthew Roth, Mitchell Center Assistant Director.

​​THE ANDREA MITCHELL CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF DEMOCRACY at the University of Pennyslvania aims not just to promote, but to understand, democracy. Global in its outlook, multifaceted in its purposes, the Mitchell Center seeks to contribute to the ongoing quest for democratic values, ideas, and institutions throughout the world. In addition to hosting speakers from the fields of academia, journalism, politics, and public policy, the Mitchell Center supports undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral research.  It continues the legacy of the Penn Program for Democracy, Citizenship, and Constitutionalism, which fostered interdisciplinary scholarship from 2007 to 2017.

Sigal Ben-Porath

Penn Graduate School of Education, Annenberg School for Communication, Annenberg Public Policy Institute, Center for Media@Risk,
SNF Paideia Program
, and The Jack Miller Center