COMM 3300: Free Speech and the First Amendment
This course examines the philosophy, court cases, and issues relevant to the First Amendment right to free expression. In this class, students will learn the functions of speech in society, the development of communication policy, and current communication laws and rules. Among others, topics discussed in this class include:
- Is racist and hateful speech protected by law?
- Can advertisers intentionally lie in a television commercial?
- Can the government ban protesting at military funerals?
- Can a university shut down a student newspaper if administrators disapprove of the content?
- Do Internet users have a constitutional right to privacy?
- Can you be sued for defamation for critiquing a politician on Twitter?
- Can judges restrict lawyer’s communication to limit pre-trail publicity?
- Do MPAA film ratings have a “chilling effect” on how films are made?
- Can a broadband provider slow down Netflix streaming if it conflicts with the provider’s own cable television offerings?
This class is essential for any student seeking a career in communication, politics, journalism, law, or advertising, or for those who simply want to know about their communication rights. As students consider a career in a communication field, it is important that they understand the centrality of communication in human life and the foundational role of free speech in society.
Dan Schill (Ph.D., University of Kansas) is an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Schill currently teaches courses in political communication, social media, telecommunications policy, media and politics, and quantitative and qualitative research methods at SMU. His research emphasis is in political campaign communication, telecommunications policy, and persuasion and social influence. His book Stagecraft and Statecraft: Advance and Media Events in Political Communication (Lexington Books, 2009) was the first of its kind to comprehensively study the techniques, functions and effects of media events in political affairs. His forthcoming book, Presidential Campaigning and Social Media, is to be published by Oxford University Press in 2013. Dr. Schill’s work has appeared in American Behavioral Scientist, Review of Communication, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, PS: Political Science & Politics, Presidential Studies Quarterly, and Real Time Response Measurement in the Social Sciences. He has also received top paper awards from the Political Communication Divisions of the International Communication Association, National Communication Association, and the Central States Communication Association.
In addition to his academic research, Dr. Schill conducts research for media outlets. Since 2007, he and fellow SMU Professor Rita Kirk have organized and moderated on-air dial focus groups for CNN and provided real time analysis of debates, speeches, and ads. His focus groups are prominently featured on CNN during coverage of major communication events. His research and analysis has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, CNN, ABC News, Chronicle of Higher Education, Dallas Morning News, The American Prospect, and other local and regional media outlets. Dr. Schill is also an expert in telecommunications and Internet policy and spent the 2009-2010 academic year working on these issues in Washington, DC for the United States Senate as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow.
Learning Outcomes and Benefits
- To learn the constitutional, statutory, and case law affecting the communication professions, including access, broadcasting, cable, commercial speech, copyright, defamation, free press vs. fair trial, fighting words, heresy, incitement, obscenity, political speech, prior restraint, privacy, public forums, special settings, symbolic speech, threats, and time-place-manner restrictions
- To understand the historical development of First Amendment law through legislation, cultural conflicts, and judicial assessment
- To apply current communications laws/rules to situations
- To examine landmark court cases and laws which influenced communications law
- To consider the role and function of freedom of speech in American society