WSU’s 23rd Annual Diversity Conference to Explore Free Speech

OGDEN, Utah – Weber State University’s 23rd Annual Diversity Conference will examine the idea and meaning of free speech, Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, in a virtual format. Events will include a panel discussion with Weber State faculty and Peter Bonilla from the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), as well as a keynote address with Kimberlé Crenshaw, a key contributor in developing the ideas behind intersectionality and Critical Race Theory.

Throughout the past year and a half, the United States has witnessed a continual state of unrest, both at the local and national level. Racial tensions and extreme political polarization have brought attention to the need for civil discourse in communities. As the country continues to face challenges, this year’s conference will explore these issues.

“Through social media, a 24/7 news cycle and other platforms, we have seen firsthand the discord in our country, and a frequent component being expressed through that is the right to free speech in Higher Education,” said Tia Nero, diversity, equity and inclusion program coordinator.

The conference will be held virtually via Zoom conferencing. All events are free and open to the public, but participants are required to register at

This year’s conference theme, “Exploring Free Speech,” will give participants an opportunity to better understand an essential component of the First Amendment. Presenters and participants will also explore how free speech impacts the world and the way in which individuals engage with each other.

The conference will open Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. with a panel discussion on free speech on college campuses. The panel will feature an expert group of WSU faculty, including Leah Murray and Mary Beth Willard, political science professors;Wendy Holliday, Stewart Library dean; and Peter Bonilla, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education vice president of programs.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, co-founder and director of the gender and racial justice think tank African American Policy Forum (AAPF), will present the keynote address on Oct. 1 at 12:30 p.m. Crenshaw’s presentation will explore critical race theory, intersectionality, and free speech. She is also the founder and director of the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia Law School.

Crenshaw is most noted for being a leader and expert in civil rights, Black feminist legal theory, race, racism and the law, as well as creating the #SayHerName campaign. She has been named the most cited woman legal scholar in law.

Crenshaw authored the background paper on gender and race discrimination for the World Conference on Racism and has given talks on race and gender justice around the world. She is also a frequent contributor on MSNBC and NPR. She received her J.D. from Harvard, L.L.M. from University of Wisconsin, and B.A. from Cornell University.

The conference will offer a variety of other workshops and presentations that will encourage attendees to challenge their own biases by examining the issues from all sides and perspectives. Attendees can request American Sign Language interpretation for specific sessions through Deaf Services at

The conference strives to educate people on the importance of engaging in discourse and advocacy in their communities. For more information about the conference and a full calendar of events, visit

The conference is also connected to this year’s theme for WSU’s Engaged Learning Series, “Re-Connect*.” The series is a collaborative cross-campus effort to host events and lectures that bring multiple perspectives to a single issue and engage students, faculty, staff and community in discussion, learning and action. For more information, visit

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Shaylee Stevens, Office of Marketing & Communications


Allison Barlow Hess, Public Relations director