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Today, FIRE is launching a national campaign asking colleges and universities to adopt the free expression statement authored by the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago earlier this year. FIRE endorsed the statement back in January and has written hundreds of faculty members, students, and student journalists at institutions nationwide encouraging them to do the same.
This announcement comes after the Sunday Washington Post published an op-ed by FIRE’s Will Creeley and Geoffrey Stone, the current Dean of the University of Chicago Law School and one of the authors of the statement, urging universities to protect academic freedom and free speech:
Backed by a strong commitment to freedom of expression and academic freedom, faculty could challenge one another, their students and the public to consider new possibilities, without fear of reprisal. Students would no longer face punishment for exercising their right to speak out freely about the issues most important to them. Instead of learning that voicing one’s opinions invites silencing, students would be taught that spirited debate is a vital necessity for the advancement of knowledge. And they would be taught that the proper response to ideas they oppose is not censorship, but argument on the merits. That, after all, is what a university is for.
The statement, which can be adapted to all universities— not just the University of Chicago— guarantees “all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.” Most importantly, it makes clear that “it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.” These ideas echo sentiments expressed by Jonathan Haidt and I in our recent cover story for The Atlantic and by public figures, including President Obama.
The Chicago statement is one of the best, most inspiring declarations of the critical importance of free speech on college campuses that I have seen in my career. If you want your alma mater to endorse the statement, I encourage you to sign FIRE’s pledge and write to your alma maters or local institutions. And make sure to check out Geoffrey Stone and Will Creeley’s Sunday Washington Post op-ed about the statement as well.