If you are moderating or participating in an event with a controversial figure or group
Make sure you fully understand the controversy before agreeing to moderate the event. Read as much as you can of the speaker’s work to help facilitate an intellectually productive dialogue.
CLARIFY YOUR ROLE
Decide what you want your role as moderator to be. Are you aiming to understand the speaker’s position? Do you hope to give the views in question a critical airing? Try to be explicit ahead of time and during the event about your perspective.
Even if you vociferously disagree with the speaker’s views, there may be people who protest your participation in providing them a platform. Make sure you are prepared to be the subject of protests and public criticism.
If you feel overwhelmed by protests, reach out to organizations like AAUP and FIRE that offer advice and legal support for faculty on issues of academic freedom. If you are experiencing online harassment, consult PEN America’s Online Harassment Field Manual.
Engage with critics of the speaker ahead of time to give them your perspective and see if you can help satisfy any of their demands. If the speaker has expressed bigotry, hatred, and discrimination, reach out to affected communities to get their perspective. Give space in the discussion for those voices, and try to amplify their concerns.
Consider writing an op-ed, blog post, or social media post explaining your decision to moderate the discussion and clarifying your position on the speaker’s views.
Emphasize the importance of academic freedom and the pedagogical value of engaging with controversial ideas. Use your position as moderator to help steer the conversation in a productive direction and live up to those ideals.
If the event is being protested peacefully, acknowledge the protesters’ presence and commend them for exercising their right to free speech. If you agree with their points, you can draw on them to help steer the conversation.
If appropriate, affirm your support for communities negatively impacted by the speaker’s views.