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UW-Eau Claire to celebrate Free Speech Week with multiple events

| Judy Berthiaume (story); Jesse Yang (video)

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will recognize Free Speech Week by bringing together experts to discuss issues relating to free speech. Several events are planned the week of Oct. 18.

Free Speech Week — celebrated annually during the third full week in October since 2005 — recognizes free speech and press in the United States. The idea of the celebration is to encourage people to learn about their rights and to be more aware of them so they can better exercise those rights.

'Fostering Inclusion and Free Inquiry'

UW-Eau Claire’s Menard Center for Constitutional Studies will host a panel discussion titled “Fostering Inclusion and Free Inquiry” at 5 p.m. Oct. 18 in Room 1804 of Centennial Hall.

The presentation also will be available via Zoom. 

Dr. Eric Kasper, professor of political science and director of the Menard Center for Constitutional Studies, will moderate the discussion.

Panelists will be:

  • Teresa O’Halloran, director of Affirmative Action and coordinator of Title IX at UW-Eau Claire.
  • Olga Diaz, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and student affairs, at UW-Eau Claire.
  • Dr. April Bleske-Rechek, professor of psychology at UW-Eau Claire.
  • Dr. Amna Khalid, associate professor of history at Carleton College.
  • Dr. Jeff Snyder, associate professor and chair of education studies at Carleton College.

'What is Critical Race Theory (and why are we talking about it)?'

The Menard Center, the history department and the UW-Eau Claire student group Aspiring Educators will co-sponsor a discussion titled “What is Critical Race Theory (and why are we talking about it)?” The event will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20, in Room 1415 of Centennial Hall.

The event was planned after students expressed great interest in the topic, says Dr. Louisa Rice, professor of history and chair of the history department. Organizers intend for the event to be a conversation among panelists, students and other audience members, she says.

The Oct. 20 discussion will focus on what critical race theory is, why it has become a political issue and its implications for free speech and for educators.

Tinker v. Des Moines Supreme Court case

The Menard Center will hold a virtual event with Mary Beth Tinker from the landmark Tinker v. Des Moines Supreme Court case. That event will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21

In 1965, Mary Beth Tinker (age 13) and her brother were sent home from school because they wore black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War. This was challenged in the courts and became a landmark First Amendment case in the Supreme Court decision Tinker v. Des Moines (1969).

During the Oct. 21 virtual event, Mary Beth Tinker will tell her story about the events that occurred. She also will talk with current UW-Eau Claire students about issues that concern them and talk about the importance of standing up for your beliefs.

About the Menard Center for Constitutional Studies

Established in 2016, the Menard Center for Constitutional Studies’ mission is to promote education, research and community outreach on matters related to the U.S. Constitution and the Wisconsin Constitution.

The center, housed in the political science department, also operates as the university’s point of access when the media or members of the public seek information or research on issues related to the U.S. Constitution. It invites speakers and hosts events that relate to American constitutional law and politics and supports and organizes faculty and student research around U.S. constitutional law and politics.

Additional resources

UW-Eau Claire has resources online that offer students and others information about the First Amendment and Freedom of Speech. You can find those resources here.

For more information about the 2021 Free Speech Week events at UW-Eau Claire, email

For information about the Menard Center for Constitutional Studies or topics relating to the First Amendment and free speech, contact Dr. Eric Kasper, professor of political science and director of the MCCS, at 715-836-4802 or

Note: UW-Eau Claire requires that people wear masks indoors while on campus.