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      Finding Common Ground

      Widener Plans Event with National Constitution Center

      dr wollman speaking

      Common ground

      The event at the National Constitution Center will examine civility in public discourse.

      Widener University will partner with the National Constitution Center for a program that explores the intersection of free speech and civil discourse in modern America.

      "The First Amendment: Finding Common Ground in a Polarized World," will happen Tuesday, Nov. 14 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. It will include an hour-long panel discussion followed by student-led breakout discussions. The discussions will allow audience members to share their thoughts through an innovative approach that emphasizes understanding, empathy, and advocacy – all through a framework of civility.

      The panel discussion, which will take place from 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. in the F.M. Kirby Auditorium, will feature Widener President Dr. Julie E. Wollman and Delaware Law School Dean Rodney Smolla, with National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen as moderator. Wollman will discuss her role as a university president who is intent on honoring all voices and finding common ground, at a time when polarization has affected multiple colleges and universities nationally.

      Smolla will explore the free speech implications of the First Amendment, and the differences between what is illegal versus what is distasteful public speech. He is a nationally known First Amendment scholar and lawyer. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently appointed him to the task force charged with evaluating circumstances that led to the violent white supremacist events this August in Charlottesville.

      In addition to his duties at the National Constitution Center, Rosen is a professor at George Washington University Law School, and a contributing editor for The Atlantic. He is a highly regarded journalist who was called "the nation's most widely read and influential legal commentator," by a Los Angeles Times reviewer.

      The event aligns with the platform principle "We're All Widener" which Wollman has highlighted at the university to exemplify Widener's commitment to respect, mutual understanding and unity. The words symbolize a fabric of the university's culture, which includes a commitment to treating others' perspectives and opinions with respect. At Widener, people value the opportunity to share different thoughts and experiences in an effort to find common ground.

      The student-led discussions, which will take place from 10:30 to 11 a.m., demonstrate Widener's innovative approach to living these values. A multi-disciplinary team of Widener faculty is recruiting student volunteers for this event task and training them, through campus workshops on how to facilitate discussions on difficult topics. The approach follows a model developed by Widener's Political Engagement Committee, which emphasizes understanding and empathy, and seeks to combat an "us vs. them" or a "win vs. lose" approach to political discussions.

      This event will be attended by Widener University faculty, staff, trustees, students and alumni from Main Campus and both law schools.

      Constitution Center

      Join the Discussion

      Register for the Event

      Seating is limited. Register as soon as possible to reserve your spot.

      Free Widener shuttle transportation is available upon registration if needed.


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