As some colleges and universities continue to be blamed for limiting free speech, the University of Mississippi has revitalized a program looking further into American freedom.
The Declaration of Independence Center for the Study of American Freedom at Ole Miss was created in 2007 before hitting a years-long state of stagnancy. In 2021, philosophy chair and professor Steven Skultety took over the program as director with the hopes of the university eventually offering a minor in freedom studies.
“When I heard about the Declaration of Independence Center, I approached the chancellor and said I’d be happy to take it on because I believe firmly that students, faculty, and citizens across the state need to be thinking carefully and often about the nature of freedom,” Skultety said during a recent appearance on MidDays with Gerard Gibert. “It’s really that simple.”
Over the last two years, Skultety has developed a number of programs that “will make sure that freedom, liberty, and independence gets studied in a careful and academic way.”
Skultety’s work has resulted in Ole Miss recently announcing that students will be able to attain a minor in freedom studies beginning in spring 2024. The area of study is believed to be the first of its kind in America.
Skultety explained his hopes of increasing viewpoint diversity in higher education while working to ensure that ideas about freedom and political issues retain a fair platform in academic discussion.
“I think part of it is freedom just ends up being something that we take for granted, and it just falls off the radar screen for a lot of people,” Skultety said. “We get in so many fights about this issue or that issue that we don’t take the time to step back and reflect about what we mean when we say that we’re free.”
“I think because people don’t think about it enough, it’s very easy to just not notice when it’s being taken away. I should say, in particular, the University of Mississippi has done a great job of developing a policy to protect freedom of expression here on the Oxford campus and that’s something we should be proud of here in the state.”
As the Declaration of Independence Center continues to gain both local and national attention, public speakers from across the U.S. have agreed to come and speak at the center. The first of what Skultety hopes will be a long list of intellectual discussions will feature U.S. Senator and GOP presidential candidate Tim Scott on Sept. 29.
“We are honored that Sen. Scott is visiting the Ole Miss campus to deliver his thoughts at such a critical time for our country,” he said. “We believe his perspective will enrich campus conversations and help foster increased understanding and civic engagement critical for our nation’s future.”
The event with Scott will be held at the Gertrude C. Ford for Performing Arts at 7 p.m. It is open to students, faculty, and the public. For more information, watch the full interview with Skultety below.
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