Auburn’s ‘Critical Conversations’ Series Features FIRE’s Robert Shibley

Leading expert on free speech advances groundbreaking campus initiative

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Robert L. Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, is the latest expert to join Auburn University's Critical Conversations speaker series. On Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. in 2550 Mell Classroom Building, the noted author, advocate of first amendment rights and civil liberties in higher education, and member of FIRE since 2003, will address the critical role of free speech on campus.

"As a staunch advocate of free speech in higher education, Robert Shibley brings an important voice to the ongoing dialogue surrounding diverse discourse on campuses across the nation," said Vice President and Associate Provost of Inclusion and Diversity Taffye Benson Clayton. "Continuing to engage our campus with different viewpoints on these important topics is a key component of our mission to create a stronger intellectual space for our students and faculty."

Since its launch in fall 2017, the Critical Conversations speaker series has welcomed distinguished scholars and thought leaders to Auburn in an effort to expand education and engagement surrounding topics of civil discourse, unconscious bias, gender differences in society and microagressions. More than 3,000 members of the campus community attended the fall series events and engaged in subsequent programs designed to foster dialogue around these issues.

As the first speaker for Critical Conversations events in 2018, Shibley kicks off an impressive roster of speakers slated to visit Auburn's campus this spring to discuss diverse perspectives on topics including free speech, women, diversity in STEM and intellectual diversity. Additional speakers include Reshma Saujani, author and founder/CEO of Girls Who Code; Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars; and New York Times columnist and best-selling author Frank Bruni.

Founded as a nonprofit organization in 1999, FIRE promotes the rights of faculty and students on college campuses, including freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty and sanctity of conscience. In January, Auburn University earned FIRE's highest "green light" speech code rating, becoming the first university in Alabama to earn this distinction. FIRE also acknowledges Auburn as one of only 38 universities nationwide that have brought its written policies fully in line with the First Amendment.

Shibley is a graduate of Duke University and Duke University School of Law and the author of Twisting Title IX (Encounter Books). He credits his experience serving as the managing editor of a college newspaper that frequently battled censorship and bias as the lifespring of his career defending the rights of college and university students and faculty members.

Doors will open at 4 p.m.; plan to arrive early, as seating is limited. The event will be livestreamed at Auburn students, faculty and staff are invited to submit questions in advance using the hashtag #AUConvos on Twitter and Facebook.

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