Levitt Fellow Lindsay Martin ’07 Studying Free Speech Issues at Colleges

By July 25, 2005

In light of recent speech issues on college campuses throughout the nation, Hamilton student and Levitt Fellow Lindsay Martin ’07 (Covington, LA), has chosen to devote 10 weeks of her summer to delving into speech codes and issues of free speech at institutions of higher education.
“I’ve always been interested in and passionate about issues of free speech,” Martin explained. “In the fall of 2003, I attended a philosophy conference, where the founder of FIRE (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), spoke. FIRE is a legal organization that litigates against institutions of higher education that restrict students’ free speech rights, and the speech sparked my interest in free speech in the specific context of colleges and universities.”
Martin is currently researching the legal and theoretical justifications of speech codes on college and university campuses, and then, based on her sample of 30 institutions (15 from the Northeast and 15 from the Southeast,) she will search for a correlation between the types of institutions and the different types of speech codes which may have differing theoretical justifications. In addition to this, she will also be examining the published mission statement of the institution to see if specific missions help to justify speech codes of varying degrees of restrictiveness.
“It seemed that people at institutions of higher education were throwing around terms about free speech, and I really wanted to study this more in depth,” she said.
When studying speech at various colleges and universities, Martin said this word is broadly defined to include oral and written speech, and even expressive actions, depending upon the particular wording of the speech code for the particular institution.
“I’m distinguishing between the different qualities, of the institutions, such as public versus private, size, region and religious affiliation and how restrictive their speech codes are,” said Martin.
The English major, who will be studying abroad at Worchester College, Oxford University, next year, is working with Assistant Professor of Sociology Jenny Irons, and Associate Professor of Government Rob Martin, and is combining political theory and sociology in her study. Irons is currently traveling, so Martin communicates with her through e-mail, while she is able to meet with Professor Martin on campus.
Regarding her decision to spend the summer at Hamilton, Martin said, “Once I became interested in this topic, I wanted to pursue it further. Researching here for the summer allows me to enjoy the ideas without stressing so much over short-term deadlines. I also really enjoy seeing Hamilton at the prettiest time of the year.”
To enhance student research around issues of public affairs, the Levitt Center funds student-faculty research through its Levitt Research Fellows Program. The program is open to all students who wish to spend the summer working in collaboration with a faculty member on an issue related to public affairs.
Students receive a summer stipend and some expense money, and spend 10 weeks in the summer working intensively with a faculty mentor. Those selected for the program are required to provide a written assessment of their work at the completion of the summer, and also give a public presentation of their research findings to the Hamilton community, or local high school classes through the Levitt Scholars program.

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Schools: Hamilton College