Programs Supporting Free Expression

The Law School has a number of programs and activities designed to support the flourishing of free expression as well as educate students about the First Amendment.

Educating Students About Free Speech Policies

Students talk during orientation.

During orientation, faculty and staff members educate new students about the school’s free speech policies and practices. That education about the First Amendment continues throughout law school in communications about policies and in training student organization leaders, and through the curriculum.

Each summer, all University of Virginia students, including law students, receive information regarding free speech and free expression at the University. Students must attest annually that they have received these policies.

Building Community

Free expression and the free exchange of ideas flourishes in a diverse community in which members get to know each other as whole people. Here at the Law School, many offices, programs, and student organizations work to build community and foster dialogue across difference. They include:

Common Law Grounds

Students in Common Law Grounds

Common Law Grounds is a student-faculty group whose mission is to encourage discussion and debate among students and faculty across the ideological spectrum with the goal of identifying and articulating areas of agreement about core values and practices. The discussions isolate points of substantive disagreement while also looking for common ground, and foster a culture of open and civil dialogue about legal and political issues.

Community Fellows Program

Each year a cohort of entering first-year students participates in the Community Fellows Program, which aims to strengthen and foster a sense of community and belonging. Participating students gain insight and develop skills that benefit them personally, and fellows are trained to engage in and facilitate productive conversations across difference. The program actively promotes an environment of mutual respect, collegiality and belongingness; grows bonds among classmates and fosters the free exchange of ideas; and links peers to the administration and greater Law School community.

Office of Community Engagement and Equity

The Law School’s Office of Community Engagement and Equity strives to help students, faculty and staff engage one another and to learn from and respect each other’s differences, while at the same time making sure all members are provided the support to succeed and thrive here. The office’s goal is to help everyone in the community engage productively with one another, especially when we disagree. That work supports the school’s commitment to free expression and its constitutional obligations. As part of its efforts, the office offers specialized training for student leaders.

Office of Student Affairs

In addition to offering individual support to students, the Student Affairs Office works closely with student organizations and academic journal personnel to coordinate extracurricular activities such as public events. The office advises students on best practices and policies regarding free speech, and offers training to student organization leaders. Student Affairs events throughout the year foster communication and understanding across differences.

Peer Advisor Program

The Peer Advisor Program helps acclimate first-year students to the Law School experience. Advisors offer friendship and support throughout the students’ law school career.

Curricular Education

While events garner most of the attention in discussions about higher education and free speech, classroom interactions are at the heart of what any school does and are a key place where freedom of speech must thrive. The faculty — like the student body — comprises people with deeply different perspectives, ideologies and backgrounds. By having a wide range of opinions and perspectives in any given classroom, and by encouraging faculty, staff and students to know each other as whole people, the school fosters classroom environments to allow students and faculty to test and debate ideas.

The Law School has several elective courses that focus on First Amendment concerns, including:

  • Constitutional Law II: Freedom of Speech and Press
  • Constitutional Law II: Survey of Civil Liberties
  • The First Amendment Clinic
  • Free Speech and the Digital Age
  • Law and Riots
  • Regulation of the Political Process

All courses

Center for the First Amendment

The school’s Center for the First Amendment serves as a hub for scholarship in the field and offers resources to interested students and faculty members. Eleven professors are currently affiliated with the center, including Danielle Citron, Leslie Kendrick, Frederick Schauer, Micah Schwartzman and G. Edward White.