The problem with freedom of expression is that often those who have the most access to it – people with power – are those who need it least.
That was the concluding argument of 24 minutes of animated exchanges in the student debate “Speechless: Should Union Organizers Have Free Speech Rights in the Workplace?” held Jan. 31 in Ives Hall. The debate was the first of three being held by the Cornell Speech and Debate Program supporting Cornell’s Freedom of Expression theme year.
In support of giving union organizers free speech rights in the workplace, ILR School students Amalia Schneider ’24 and Margot Treadwell ’24 asked, “Which world do you want to live in? Which one do you want to work for?” In a vote after the debate, the majority of the audience said they agreed with that team’s stance.
In opposition, Ram Orfanel ’25 and Abigel Manaye ’24, both in the College of Arts and Sciences, argued that freedom of speech in the workplace could create a hostile environment that will inevitably hurt business. The spectators voted them winners of the debate for making the best argument.
The debates are a collaboration among the ILR School’s Office of Engaged and Experiential Programs, the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement and the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.