The Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust’s initial program will be a First Amendment forum that will explore free speech issues on campus, and how tenure, collective bargaining agreements and academic freedom impact the issue. The program is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 17 in the Peters Educational Center on the Fresno State campus. The public is invited.

Fresno State President Joseph Castro announced the forum Monday during his Fall Assembly welcoming faculty and staff back to campus. The forum is in response to recent campus free speech controversies that have played out nationally on social media, and other media outlets.

He asked our Media Institute to plan and host the forum.First Amendment slideIn introducing Dr. Castro at Monday’s Assembly, Dr. Thomas Holyoke, chair of the Academic Senate, said his group is working on a statement of “best practices” for faculty using social media.

In the spring, a controversial tweet by English Professor Randa Jarrar within an hour of the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush drew intense national criticism. Professor Jarrar called Bush an “amazing racist” who raised a “war criminal.” She doubled down on her criticism during subsequent tweets.

Dr. Castro condemned Professor Jarrar’s statements, but said they were protected speech. Many in the community had demanded that the professor be fired.

Next month’s forum also will delve into the issue on a broader scale, and discuss free speech challenges in high schools in the San Joaquin Valley, as well as nationally.

The panel discussion will include Holyoke, chair of the Academic Senate; Demi Wack, ASI president; Dr. Diane Blair, president of the Fresno State Chapter of the California Faculty Association; Wen Fa, attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, and Michael E. Smith, founding partner of the Lozano Smith law firm, which specializes in school litigation.

The program will be moderated by Jim Boren, Executive Director of the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust.

Here is a campus map. The Peters Educational Center is in the Student Recreation Center near Shaw and Woodrow Avenues.