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The Stockton/Brooks lecture was held at the Student Union on Oct. 4. Photo by Phil Shockley.

Stockton/Brooks lecture advocates for free speech, not agreeable speech

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Media Contact: Elizabeth Gosney | CAS Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-7497 | egosney@okstate.edu

On October 4 at Oklahoma State University’s Student Union Theater, the 2022 Stockton/Brooks lecture “Cancel Culture Cuts Many Ways” gave a platform for addressing conflicts concerning free speech.

The lecture addressed free speech as a fundamental right for United States citizens that is often neglected due to misinformation or a lack of knowledge about First Amendment rights. This ignorance can result in silencing individuals.

The issue has been prevalent in past generations. It was acknowledged by Friday Afternoon Tea and Glee Society (FATAGS), a student group created in the late 1960s in response to the Vietnam War. FATAGS, used this title as a cover for their protest planning. 

FATAGS members advocated for civil rights, free speech, environmental rights and world peace. They helped bring controversial speakers to OSU's campus and assembled large protests. They gained national attention for a protest for the Department of Sociology, supported by Drs. Margaret Brooks and Dale Stockton, who risked their professional careers to help FATAGS. The group decided at a 2017 reunion to continue their activism efforts, establishing the lecture series in Brooks and Stockton’s honor. 

During the 2022 Stockton/Brooks lecture, discussions of free speech, the effects of cancel culture and the opportunity to exchange ideas and views were provided in an exuberant environment. 

Charles “Chic” Dambach, an author, lecturer, member of FATAGS and one of the coordinators of the lecture said cancel culture is just as large of an issue today as it was when he was an OSU student. In fact, one of the reasons he helped with this lecture was to advocate for students' voices and to challenge viewpoints.

“The best place to develop resiliency is here on the college campus,” Dambach said. “If someone is going to bring a speaker [with opposing viewpoints], let them come and stand up to them. That’s what you should be doing.”

Dambach said he wants individuals to be motivated to understand people’s ways of thinking, especially when they disagree with others' ideals.

“I am offended by those things too,” Dambach said. “But if that is what people are thinking, I want to know what they are thinking and why they think that way. And I want to engage in a dialogue with them. So that is what the free speech movement was all about then and is all about now.”

The first part of the lecture was presented by Alex Morey, the director of Campus Rights Advocacy at the Foundation of Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a nonpartisan organization that aims to protect the rights of individuals in academics. During her remarks, Morey — a licensed attorney and free speech advocate — addressed what the boundaries within free speech are and who decides them.

After Morey, a panel engaged the audience in a discussion of free speech. The panel included Maddison Farris, an OSU political science student; Dr. Joey Senat, an associate professor in OSU’s School of Media and Strategic Communications; and Hank Hankla, an OSU alumnus and active member of FATAGS. They, along with moderator Andy Lester, came to the consensus that one must speak one’s mind without fear of offending.

“If you believe in free speech, you often have to advocate for someone’s right to say something that you don’t agree with — that you believe is dangerous,” Senat said. “The First Amendment does its job best when we get angry over issues and speak our minds. … If you don’t even speak up, then the conversation never happens in any form.” 

In addition to FATAGS, the 2022 Stockton/Brooks lecture was sponsored by OSU Difficult Dialogues, an organization that creates inclusive and safe spaces on campus for the free exchange of ideas. Other sponsors include the College of Education and Human Sciences, the School of Global Partners and Friends on the Forms.

A recording of the lecture can be viewed on insideosu.com. Look for more Stockton/Brooks lectures in the near future.

Story By: Allie Putman, CAS student intern | allie.putman@okstate.edu

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