My Freshman Seminar: Free Speech
My freshman seminar was an essential part of my first year at Harvard. It allows for a smooth academic transition to the College in the sense that the grading format is Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory, and the seminar also gives freshman students a chance to study and work closely with a tenured professor at the University. Freshman seminars tend to have about 12 to 15 students in them, and the topics range from Multiethnic American Short Stories: Tales We Tell Ourselves to Autobiography and Black Freedom Struggles.
The seminar I took was called Free Speech. The professor of the course was Sanford “Sandy” Ungar; he is a visiting professor. He was the Director of the Voice of America, host of several programs on National Public Radio, writer/editor for the Washington Post, The Atlantic, and the Foreign Policy magazine, and former president of Goucher College. We explored the First Amendment, looking at the evolution of free speech through various Supreme Court cases and past world events. From analyzing the implications behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre to studying the acts of the “whistle blower” Edward Snowden in regards to the Wikileaks incident to examining the writings of Sandy about the Pentagon Papers in his book called The Papers and the Papers, I was fascinated by this new way of thinking. Periodically, I had to separate my morals from my analysis, thinking objectively when determining if various Supreme Court decisions were justified.
Learning from the perspectives of the students around me also made this experience amazing. Even though there were only 12 students in the course, we all had different backgrounds, religions, and ethnicities, which allowed for each of us to learn more about the content and more about each other. My favorite part of the course was when Ayaan Hirsi Ali came to speak to our class. She talked about the importance of free speech and her controversial film, Submission. It was very enlightening to hear her perspective and learn from her experiences. Free Speech was an awesome course, and I am so grateful for Harvard’s Freshman Seminar Program.