Philip Goodrich on campus

SURF Fellow Philip Goodrich ’22 Examines the Importance of Free Expression on College Campuses The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on research experience and focus on their passions.

Philip Goodrich ’22, a political science and history double major with a minor in secondary education, has been working on a project titled “‘Complicated and Messy’: Student Government Leaders on Campus Free Expression ” through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). This is a paid, on-campus, eight-week program in which students undertake hands-on research with the help of faculty. 

I sat down with Goodrich to learn more about SURF and his thoughts on free expression, and got an insider’s peek into his own experience as Chapman’s 2020-22 Student Government Association (SGA) president. 

What are you exploring with your SURF research?

I’m doing a qualitative study looking at the ways in which student government leaders at U.S. colleges and universities perceive and experience campus free expression. In my opinion, campus free expression is the ability to express different views and perspectives in the higher education context. Some common examples of campus free expression — broadly defined — include, but are not limited to, speakers invited to campus, debates and discussion in the classroom, and protests around social and political issues. Furthermore, academic freedom (for both students and faculty members) — the ability to study and speak on any and all topics — is a key component of campus free expression. Some examples of where campus free expression is lacking include, but are not limited to, formal policies restricting certain forms of expression, speakers being disinvited or prevented from speaking, and a campus culture that is not hospitable to a diverse array of views and perspectives. 

For my project, I’m using a combination of open-ended surveys and semi-structured interviews to better understand the perceptions and experiences of student government officers around the country. I also plan to include practical recommendations  for student governments, student government advisors, and higher education professionals. 

What inspired this topic of research? 

This project was inspired by my time as SGA president at Chapman.  In this role, I experienced the good and bad of campus free expression, both in and outside of Chapman. I had my first real exposure to the concept of campus free expression through several meetings with Chapman’s dean of students, Dr. Jerry Price, and the SGA advisor, Dr. Chris Hutchison, where I learned more about the history and philosophy behind campus free expression. This interest turned into my history thesis, which explored the role and impact of UC Berkeley’s student government during the Free Speech Movement of 1964. I also obtained an internship with the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Campus Free Expression Project, where I was able to write, talk and advocate for free expression with more knowledge and expertise. 

Ultimately, I aim to highlight the importance of free expression on college and university campuses and show how student governments can productively engage with this issue. I hope this study  kickstarts future research on the relationship between student governments and campus free expression.

Are you working with additional faculty on the project? What else can you tell us about the SURF program? 

I’m working with Dr. Kris De Pedro, a faculty member in the Attallah College of Educational Studies. His guidance and help throughout the program has been very helpful and rewarding for me. All of the students in the SURF program have faculty seminars on Tuesdays when we hear presentations on their research. On Thursdays, we have professional development sessions where a campus partner comes in and provides guidance on a particular topic. We have social events, as well, such as a night at an Angel’s game. It’s a great experience to gather as a group and learn more about what others are researching. 

Aside from SURF, I was fortunate to gain experience in qualitative research during my time as a research assistant for Dr. Michelle Samura in the Attallah College of Educational Studies. Our project, ”The Architecture of Longing”, looked at how physical campus spaces impact college student belonging, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What are your plans after graduating from Chapman? 

Next year, I’ll be attending UCLA where I’ll work toward my master’s in student affairs. I’m looking forward to using the knowledge I’ve learned at Chapman to make a difference in the world of higher education. 

What advice would you give students looking to do undergraduate research?

If I were to give a piece of advice to undergraduate students looking to pursue research, I would encourage them to seek out faculty mentors who are willing to invest in them and assist with all aspects of their professional and academic journey. Conducting research is great, but it is even more impactful when you are able to work with a faculty member who will take you under their wing, train and educate you to the best of their ability, and set you up on a path toward success. Thankfully, Chapman has a plethora of supportive faculty members who would be more than happy to work with you, so reach out and see where it takes you.

Belana Beeck

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