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Free Speech and the Art of Democracy

The ability to speak freely is foundational to a healthy democracy. But are these notions still relevant in our polarized political times? Our distinguished panelists discussed the role of free speech in a healthy democracy.  

MSU Denver President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., recently convened a task force with broad representation across the University community to formalize the University’s commitment to free expression and open inquiry through the creation of a Free Expression Statement. Similarly, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser created the Ginsburg/Scalia Initiative to celebrate respectful engagement and our constitutional tradition’s call on each generation to serve as stewards of our democratic republic and the rule of law. 

The pair were joined by esteemed panelists Wayne Williams, former Colorado Secretary of State, Katia Campbell, MSU Denver Professor and Communication Studies Chair, and David Fine, MSU Denver Attorney General, for an inclusive discussion on our responsibility to foster free speech. 

The recording of the event is below.

Free Speech and the Art of Democracy from MSU Denver on Vimeo.


Phil Weiser, J.D., Colorado Attorney General

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser was sworn in as the State’s 39th Attorney General on January 8, 2019. As the state’s chief legal officer, Attorney General Weiser is committed to protecting the people of Colorado and building an innovative and collaborative organization that will address a range of statewide challenges, from addressing the opioid epidemic to improving our criminal justice system to protecting consumers to protecting our land, air, and water.

Attorney General Weiser has dedicated his life to the law, justice, and public service. Before running for office, Weiser served as the Hatfield Professor of Law and Dean of the University of Colorado Law School, where he founded the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship and co-chaired the Colorado Innovation Council.

Read more here.


Wayne Williams, J.D., former Colorado Secretary of State

Wayne Williams was elected as an at-large, citywide member of the Colorado Springs City Council in an 11-way race in April 2019. Wayne’s 47,581 votes were the most for city council in Colorado Springs’ history.

In 2021, Wayne was elected to serve as Chair of the Board for Colorado Springs Utilities, a four-service utility with a $1.2 billion dollar annual budget, triple the city’s 2022 general fund budget of $400 million. Wayne serves on a host of other city and utility boards and committees, including as a member of the Board of Directors of the Colorado Springs Chamber and Economic Development Corporation and the Pikes Peak RTA, which he helped found in 2004.
Wayne’s service in Colorado Springs began in 1994 when Mayor Bob Isaac appointed him to serve on the Colorado Springs Housing Authority, which he later chaired. In 2002, he was elected for the first of two terms as an El Paso County Commissioner, and he later served as El Paso County Clerk and Recorder. He was elected three times to serve as Chair of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments.

At the state level, Wayne Williams served as Colorado’s 38th Secretary of State, where he helped create what the Washington Post called the safest state in which to vote. He has served as Vice Chair of the State Transportation Advisory Committee, Treasurer of the Colorado State Internet Portal Authority, and as a gubernatorial appointee for Bill Owens, Bill Ritter, and now Jared Polis.  He also has been tapped by Democrats and Republicans to run elections in four other Colorado counties.

As Colorado Secretary of State Wayne worked across the aisle passing bills with widespread bipartisan support and earning the endorsement of Democratic, Republican, and unaffiliated county clerks.  Former National Association of Secretaries of State President and Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos (D) said, “I’ve seen firsthand how Wayne Williams has worked across the aisle to bring people together. Wayne works with both Democrats and Republicans to protect our nation’s elections and to ensure the right to vote.”

Wayne is a 1985 Harry S Truman Scholar and graduated in political science from BYU in 1986 and from the University of Virginia Law School in 1989.

Wayne has been married for 35 years to Holly Williams who was elected as an El Paso County Commissioner in 2018 and is running for reelection. They have lived in Briargate since 1992. Their four children graduated from Rampart High School and have seven college degrees with one more Ph.D in progress.


Janine Davidson, Ph.D., MSU Denver President

Janine Davidson, Ph.D., has served as president of Metropolitan State University of Denver since 2017. She is a national thought leader in higher education and on topics such as public service, U.S. foreign policy and national security.

As president of Colorado’s third-largest public university, Davidson is a fierce advocate for MSU Denver’s 17,500 students. From her first days on campus, she has championed the role public universities play in “holding the line on the American dream.” She has staunchly supported the DREAM Act and MSU Denver’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students, as well as its minoritized students and military and veteran students.

Read more here.


Katia Campbell, Ph.D., MSU Denver Professor & Communication Studies Chair

Katia Campbell, Ph.D., is an professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Her scholarship and teaching focuses on rhetoric, free speech, cultural representation, popular media and critical pedagogy. Campbell is also the Faculty Senate President. Outside of MSU Denver, she consults and facilitates workshops on communication and diversity, media literacy, free speech, public speaking, and dialogic ethics. After completing her doctorate, Campbell worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Communication at University of Colorado Denver.


David Fine, J.D., MSU Denver General Counsel

Before becoming General Counsel and Secretary to the Board of Trustees at MSU Denver, David Fine, J.D., was a partner at the international law firm of Holland & Knight specializing in several areas of law, including higher-education law. He also served as the Denver City Attorney under Mayor John Hickenlooper from 2007-11.

David has been listed in Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers and 5280 Top Lawyers on multiple occasions. He serves on the board of the Florence Crittendon Services. David also served on the MSU Denver Foundation board.

David is a fourth-generation Coloradan and a proud graduate of Denver Public Schools. He received his Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Wisconsin and his Juris Doctor from the Northwestern University School of Law.