In our highly politically polarized environment, free speech and DEI are often discussed as two separate and even opposed concepts, with DEI initiatives coming at the cost of free speech. However, a deeper and better informed understanding of the concepts of free speech and DEI reveals how these principles are deeply interdependent. In this conversation, panelists will explore the misconception that DEI infringes upon free speech or enforces conformity. Further, panelists will discuss how DEI enhances the ideals of free speech by fostering inclusion and bringing more diverse perspectives to the forefront.


Jack Bernard is the associate general counsel at the University of Michigan. He has worked in the academy for over thirty years and has been with the University of Michigan’s Office of the Vice President and General Counsel since 1999. During the eleven years prior to this work, Jack had been an academic administrator and/or instructor at Macalester College, Saga Daigaku (Japan), and the University of Michigan. He teaches at the University of Michigan’s Schools of Law, Education, and Information, as well as at the Ford School of Public Policy. He is chair emeritus of the University of Michigan’s Council for Disability Concerns, where he served for over seventeen years.

In 2009, Jack received the American Library Association’s “L. Ray Patterson Copyright Award,” as well as the First Decade Award from the National Association of College and University Attorneys. At the University of Michigan, he was a 2014 Distinguished Diversity Leadership recipient and, in 2016, he received the Carol Hollenshead Award from the Center for the Education of Women. He has also been a Spencer Fellow and a researcher at the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement.

Dr. Kaleb Briscoe is an assistant professor of adult and higher education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Her research problematizes oppressed and marginalized populations within higher education through critical theoretical frameworks and qualitative methodological approaches. Through her scholarship on campus racial climate and hate crimes, she seeks to disrupt whiteness and white supremacy on predominantly white campuses. Her research shapes administrators, specifically university presidents’ responses to race and racism, by challenging their use of anti-blackness and non-performative rhetoric. Dr. Briscoe’s research has been funded by the Spencer Foundation, NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, ACPA–College Student Educators International, and National Association for Campus Activities Foundation.

A scholar-practitioner, Dr. Briscoe’s work has been published in the Journal of Higher Education, Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, Journal of College Student Development, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Journal of Negro Education, and Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice. Dr. Briscoe is a 2023-2025 ACPA Emerging Scholar-Designee and a 2023-2024 University of California Fellow for the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.

Dr. Elizabeth R. Cole is a professor of psychology, women's and gender studies, and Afroamerican and African studies, and director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan. Her scholarship applies feminist theory on intersectionality to social science research on race, gender, and social justice. She is a past president and a fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (APA Div. 9), and a consulting editor for American Psychologist. She has received the Committee on Women in Psychology Leadership Award from the American Psychological Association, the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award, and the Sarah Goddard Power Award from the University of Michigan. Dr. Cole has served as associate dean for social sciences and interim dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

Dr. Nina M. Flores an associate professor of advanced studies in education and counseling at California State University, Long Beach. Dr. Flores is proud to be a lifelong product of the California public education system, from K-12, to college, to her doctorate in urban planning from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. She teaches in the Social and Cultural Analysis of Education graduate program, where she trains students as emerging scholars and practitioners focused on justice, power, and resistance. She draws on current and community events to anchor academic ideas in everyday life, and uses critical pedagogies in her courses to engage students in deep analyses of social and educational inequities at global and local levels.

In her research Dr. Flores examines issues related to gender-based harassment experienced online, in public spaces, and at academic conferences. She has written journal articles and given scholarly presentations about gendered public space, street harassment, and most recently the targeted harassment of faculty members. As someone committed to public scholarship and civic engagement, she recognizes the ways in which targeted harassment may silence faculty, leading them to self-censorship. Dr. Flores is a past fellow with The OpEd Project, and her public writing has been featured in national outlets such as the The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Ms. Magazine Blog, YES! Magazine and Progressive Planning Magazine. Before returning to academia, Dr. Flores worked as a political messaging strategist and jury consultant, conducting pre-trial focus group research for legal cases in more than thirty states.