November 12-16, 2018
Examining Freedom of Speech at App State

Panel Discussion: Freedom of Speech: Just Watch What You Say…

Say What? Examining Freedom of Speech at App State
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 / 5:30pm-7:00pm
201 Plemmons Student Union (Blue Ridge Ballroom)
Free and open to the public

A panel of legal experts, social justice educators and activists, faculty and students will be moderated by radio host and law professor Stewart Harris. Topics will center around freedom of speech on campus, in our community and beyond. Questions will be curated in advance.

NOTE: This event will be recorded for radio production.

*This event may be recorded or live streamed.

Submit your question for consideration by the panel.

Sponsored by Appalachian’s Student Government Association.

Panel participants

Dr. Michael Behrent is an associate professor of history at Appalachian. He received his Ph.D. from New York University and teaches European intellectual history, modern French history and modern European history. His research interests include the place of religion in French political thought and Michel Foucault and his intellectual legacy. Behrent is the vice president of the North Carolina State Conference of AAUP (the American Association of University Professors).

J. Spenser Darden has been involved in student affairs and equity work since 2012, and currently serves as the associate director for multicultural student development at Appalachian. As a social justice educator and activist, Darden seeks to transform actions and attitudes through candid conversation. Growing up in the Washington, D.C., area, Darden observed firsthand the importance and power of activating lasting change through education and coalition building. He has worked as a consultant for a variety of organizations, including colleges and universities and multinational corporations, as well as with a State Senatorial campaign in its development of authentic social justice messaging and diverse voter outreach. Darden received his master's in higher education from the University of Arizona, and his bachelor’s in sport and exercise psychology from West Virginia University.

Jared Mark is a third year Honors Political Science major. He is currently serving as the director of student affairs for Appalachian’s Student Government Association. He also acts as the coordinator of governmental proceedings for the Residence Hall Association and he dedicates service to the Appalachian Family as an Appalachian Student Ambassador. Jared is from Raleigh, and comes from a background where free speech is respected and believes it empowers those who work hard to achieve their dreams.

Paul Meggett began serving as Appalachian's general counsel on June 18, 2018. Prior to coming to Appalachian, he served as a law professor and interim dean with the Charlotte School of Law. Previously, he served for 12 years in a dual, in-house counsel role as associate general counsel for the UNC Health Care system and assistant university counsel for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is an active member of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) and North Carolina State Bar. He is a member and former chair of the NCBA Legislative Advisory Committee and a current member of the NCBA Law School Liaison Committee. He also served a three-year term as chair of the NCBA Joint Diversity Task Force. Meggett served on the Issues-Outreach Subcommittee and the Issues-Demographics Subcommittee of the North Carolina State Bar and as a consultant to the South Carolina Bar concerning its diversity initiatives. Meggett holds a J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law, a B.S. from North Carolina State University and is also an alumnus of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.

Toussaint Romain is a public defender in Charlotte, North Carolina. Romain became a key figure, civil rights leader and peacekeeper during the protests of the Shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in September 2016. Romain is a community advocate who has spoken across the nation, taught continuing legal education courses (CLEs) and developed community initiatives for his local community. He was featured on live television several times both for interviews and as a peacekeeper forming a physical barrier between demonstrators and the police on the second night of the protests. Romain is also an adjunct professor of criminal justice and criminology at the UNC Charlotte (UNCC) campus, where he instructs constitutional law.

Gaby Romero is a second-year anthropology major at Appalachian. Currently, she serves as the director of social sustainability for Appalachian’s Student Government Association (SGA), and her other roles on campus include serving as the vice president of the Hispanic Student Association, secretary of the Beta Chi Chapter of Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority Inc., a Diversity Scholar and as a member of the Honors College. She grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, but was born in Colombia. Coming from a background that was quite distinct from her peers’ experience taught her the importance of free speech. She feels raising our voices is our best defense against oppression.


Stewart Harris serves as an associate professor in the Duncan School of Law at Lincoln Memorial University. He graduated from Princeton University in 1983. He has advised the Army Corps of Engineers on civil works projects throughout the continental United States, including drafting congressional testimony for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. In private practice, he concentrated on environmental, civil rights and First Amendment law, notably obtaining a half-million dollars for a public official who had been libeled by a newspaper. Since 1999, he has taught law at institutions throughout the Southeast, and currently also hosts a nationally syndicated public radio show, Your Weekly Constitutional, which is produced by WETS in the Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia region.

Say What? Examining Freedom of Speech at App State

Appalachian State University, like universities across the nation, faces the challenge of balancing a respect for and obligation to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution with an institutional culture of respect for thought, belief and community.

  • When members of our community express themselves in ways that belittle or degrade others, how do we address these actions?
  • When members of our community view expressions of speech as threats, how do we ensure their safety?
  • How can we protect freedom of speech and thought for all members of our community?
  • Can we – or should we – use policy to address these matters?

Each semester, the Appalachian Community investigates these questions, and others like them, through intentional programming designed to explore meaningful, challenging issues respectfully.

Join us for a weeklong series of conversations, panel discussions, speeches and forums.

Learn more | View the entire schedule