Undergrads to debate free speech in the workplace

Is promoting freedom of expression in the workplace a good business practice? This question will be debated at two upcoming events, one in Spanish and one in English, co-hosted by the Cornell Speech and Debate Program, the ILR School and the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

Freedom of Expression

Supporting Cornell’s Freedom of Expression Theme Year, each event will showcase a debate between two undergraduate teams and include a workshop where attendees will learn about formal debate strategies, reflect on the approaches demonstrated and consider their own perspectives on the topic.

“¿Es Fomentar la Libertad de Expresión en el Lugar de Trabajo una Buena Práctica Empresarial? Taller y Demonstración de Debate Etudiantil” will take place Feb. 5, at 5 p.m. in the Statler Amphitheater. The English language event will take place Feb. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in 305 Ives Hall. Registration is requested. Both events are part of the Freedom of Expression Debate Series, which begins on Jan. 31 and is sponsored by ILR School in collaboration with the SC Johnson College and the Einhorn Center for Community Engagement.

Rodolfo Flores Méndez, an MBA candidate in the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, and Julía García Guell, a master’s candidate in the ILR School, will moderate the Feb. 5 event.

“We want to show the relevance of freedom of expression in a professional context and invite audience reflection while they learn useful skills for their careers,” said Flores Méndez, who honed his English skills through formal debate competitions. “Any language level and professional background is welcome.”

The undergraduate debaters come from across the university and represent diverse majors, from public policy and government to environmental engineering and computer science. They will not know which side they’ll be arguing until the day of the event.

“We think of the Freedom of Expression Theme Year within the context of the marketplace, and any well-functioning marketplace requires the frictionless exchange of information,” said Andrew Karolyi, the Charles Field Knight Dean of the SC Johnson College. “We want our students to know how to exchange ideas and express their opinions rationally, respectfully, especially in the face of disagreement. And to be willing to learn from differing views. These events directly exercise this process. I’m so glad our college is collaborating with ILR and the Cornell Speech and Debate Program on this event.”

“Through these debates, students will explore the complex issues around freedom of expression at work,” said Alexander Colvin, the ​​Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean and the Martin F. Scheinman ’75, M.S. ’76, Professor of Conflict Resolution in the ILR School. “Free speech is one of the fundamental values of Cornell as an institution and we’re very pleased to be collaborating with the SC Johnson College of Business in this exciting event supporting it. The world-renowned Speech and Debate Program is one of Cornell’s true gems and we are proud to have it as an important component of the ILR School’s academic activities.”

Alison Fromme is a writer for the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

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Adam Allington