The purpose of this course is to advance student knowledge of the First Amendment and the principles of free expression in a democracy, while educating students about their related legal rights and responsibilities. This survey course also covers some of the differing systems of free expression around the world and how they compare to the system in the U.S. Students will learn about the historical trajectory of the law and contemporary legal situations and issues. Because the law is always changing, this course is intended to instill an understanding of how the law affects the work of communicators so that one can be ready to adapt when necessary. This course also deals with contemporary issues of freedom of speech, the democratic role of journalists, and how government agencies regulate expression. Students will be challenged to engage in independent, critical thinking to solve complex problems or to develop a persuasive response to how a democracy should deal with potential issues. Because free expression often means protecting the speech of those who might say offensive things, this course might include materials that may be offensive to some. Please note that controversial topics and content will be discussed in class.
Upon completion of the course students will be able to:
- Recognize how the law impacts people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
- Apply the principles and laws of freedom of speech and press.
- Develop the ability to apply the law and precedents to specific situations in an ethical manner.
- Explore the historical bases of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
- Examine how the law protects our right to communicate while protecting people and institutions from potentially harmful media effects.
- Synthesize and analyze contemporary communication law issues and write a persuasive argument as to how an issue should be dealt with given the current constitutional and common law interpretation in the United States.
- Assess the legal rights of communication professionals to gather, prepare, and disseminate news and public information.
- Develop an understanding of how to assess a potential legal problem and outline a potential response thoroughly.