News and Events

Former ACLU President to address college free speech issues

Former American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey president Frank Corrado, Esq. will deliver a virtual presentation discussing free speech on college campuses on Wednesday, March 2. 

Corrado’s “Back to Basics: The First Amendment in the College Classroom” will cover “cancel culture” and hate speech, among other topics related to First Amendment rights. The presentation will be held from 2:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. A half an hour of the presentation will be dedicated to an attendee question-and-answer session.

“The committee was mindful that, at both a national level and at Stockton, there have been controversies over the meaning and the purposes underlying about the protections for free speech contained in the First Amendment,” chair of sponsoring Constitution Day Planning Committee Linda Wharton said.

In their planning of a small-scale event for the spring semester, the committee considered the curiosity and controversy surrounding free speech on college campuses and beyond. Wharton envisions the greater impact of such a timely and significant presentation topic.

According to Wharton, recent events on Stockton’s campus such as last semester’s Key of David Christian Center protest, in which representatives came to the campus to voice what Wharton described as anti-LGBTQ, sexist, and other hateful speech, indicate the growing relevance of free speech topics . The messages provoked a counter-protest among the Stockton community in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

Wharton mentioned that laws intending to restrict speech at the national level also inspired consideration of the event topic. Laws forbidding critical race theory in educational curriculum are especially relevant to this larger conversation.

Wharton shared her hope in students achieving a better understanding of the First Amendment, including the reasons and boundaries behind this piece of the Constitution.

“I can think of no better person than Frank Corrado to discuss this topic,” Wharton said. Corrado’s extensive background in law and journalism made him an ideal presenter candidate in the committee’s selection of an event topic and speaker.

Aside from his ACLU leadership background, Corrado previously taught at Stockton as a visiting professor. He was also a former Press of Atlantic City reporter and editor for 12 years. Corrado’s current professional focus is in civil rights and constitutional law.

Both Wharton and faculty chair of co-sponsoring American Democracy Project Dr. Claire Abernathy see a growing interest among students in regard to their First Amendment rights.

“I started at Stockton in 2015 and in that time I have seen a consistently strong student interest in having opportunities to freely express their opinions while on campus, with increasing attention to free speech typically around national political events and elections, or when controversial groups have come to our campus,” Abernathy said.

Abernathy acknowledges the misconceptions around the First Amendment, including the differences between protected and unprotected speech. She said she hopes this event will provide students with clarity on this topic.

“It is my hope that we would see students who feel emboldened to share their opinions and to advocate for the university to create opportunities for student speech on the issues that matter most to our students,” Abernathy said.

Students can register for the event at