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UCO to Host Freedom of Expression Forum March 5-6

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Feb. 28, 2018

Media Contact: Adrienne Nobles, Assistant Vice President, UCO University Communications, 405-974-2103,

UCO to Host Freedom of Expression Forum March 5-6

The University of Central Oklahoma will host the two-day forum “The Freedom of Expression: Teaching and Learning in Our Time” March 5-6 in Constitution Hall, Nigh University Center (NUC) on Central’s campus.             

The forum will encourage students, faculty, staff and the community to examine the nature of civil discourse as it relates to the First Amendment and freedom of speech and expression at public universities, particularly in varying viewpoints regarding creationism and scientific inquiry. The forum is a response to the controversy that followed the rescinding of an invitation to Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis (AiG), to speak on campus by the UCO Student Association. UCO President Don Betz later re-invited Ham.           

“The University of Central Oklahoma as a social institution is historically committed to the critical examination of ideas and people conducted in a civil manner. By exposure to new ideas, no matter how controversial, we are able to winnow and sift the wheat from the chaff and gain new insights,” Betz said.           

The forum will open with a presentation from Rick Tepker, Calvert Chair of Law and Liberty and professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, titled “Expressive Liberty and Civic Equality: First Principles for Students, Professors and Public Universities” at 11 a.m. March 5. His discussion will underscore the essential role public education and public universities play in civic discourse in America and outline principles that govern public debate on campus. John Wood, Ph.D., associate professor in UCO’s Master of Public Administration program, will moderate a Q-and-A session following the presentation.           

At 3 p.m. March 5 Ham will present “Genesis and the State of Culture,” an examination of the ideas of Charles Darwin. He will be joined by AiG faculty member Georgia Purdom, Ph.D., for a Q-and-A session following the presentation. AiG is an apologetics (Bible-defending) ministry based in Northern Kentucky that operates the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter.             

The second day of the forum will begin at 10 a.m. March 6 with the presentation “The Nature of Science: Process and Progress” with David Evans, Ph.D., executive director of the National Science Teachers Association. Evans will discuss the process and importance of scientific inquiry in understanding the world and what happens when science conflicts with one’s values. Beth Allan, Ph.D., UCO professor of biology, will moderate a Q-and-A session following the presentation.           

The forum will close with a session at 3 p.m. March 6 featuring Rev. Robin Meyers, D.M., Ph.D., distinguished professor of social justice at Oklahoma City University and senior minister at Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City. His session, “Speaking in, of, and to the World: Civil Discourse, Inclusion, and Social Justice in Higher Education,” will discuss how universities can foster the free exchange of ideas in a period of increasing polarization in public discourse. J. David Macey, Ph.D., assistant vice president for global and cultural competencies at UCO, will moderate a Q-and-A session after the presentation.           

All sessions are free; however, the session with Ken Ham is a ticketed event due to the anticipated high level of interest. The majority of the tickets will be available to UCO students, with approximately 40 percent available to faculty, staff and the community. Tickets will be available for reservation at noon, Thursday, March 1.           

Students may reserve tickets here:           

Faculty, staff and community members may reserve tickets here:

Ticket holders can pick up tickets at will call from 1:15-2:45 p.m. March 5, located on the second floor of the NUC. Tickets that are unclaimed at 2:45 p.m. may be given to those standing by. Overflow seating will be available in the NUC Ballrooms B and C.           

Backpacks and large bags will not be allowed in Constitution Hall for this presentation, but may be checked at the NUC Cherokee Room for pick up afterwards. All items are subject to search by onsite law enforcement and security. Note that it is illegal to bring firearms and other weapons on public university campuses in Oklahoma.            

For further information, call 405-974-5571.


Editor’s Note: Media will require credentials to attend the Ken Ham session. A separate advisory will be sent with credentialing details to local media. Contact Adrienne Nobles at with questions.