In a promising development for freedom of speech at the City University of New York (CUNY), the CUNY Faculty Senate has passed a resolution affirming the principles of the Chicago Statement on freedom of expression (formally, the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago). With membership comprised of representatives from all 25 colleges and graduate schools in the CUNY system, the University Faculty Senate represents the faculty of the entire system on this issue.
While plenty of work remains before CUNY as an institution can be said to have officially adopted the Chicago Statement, this a significant step in the right direction.
CUNY’s chancellor has appointed two independent task forces—one on expressive activities and another on civility— which will be responsible for producing subsequent policies that might have an impact on campus speech. Those will then be voted on by the CUNY Board of Trustees. Although these task forces are operating independently from the University Faculty Senate, FIRE is hopeful that the task forces will take the Faculty Senate’s affirmation of the Chicago Statement into account when crafting their policies.
In the meantime, the twenty-five colleges and graduate schools in the CUNY system can offer further support by signing on to the resolution, or passing similar resolutions. On April 20, FIRE has learned the Medgar Evers College Faculty Senate did just that when it unanimously passed its own resolution affirming the UFS resolution.
The passage of the CUNY Faculty Senate’s resolution makes CUNY the twelfth institution at which faculty governing bodies or administrators have officially endorsed the Chicago Statement. Such institutions include: Princeton University, Purdue University, Johns Hopkins University, American University, Chapman University, Winston-Salem State University, the University of Wisconsin System (which includes 26 campuses), the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, Columbia University, and Louisiana State University.
In January 2015, FIRE endorsed the Chicago Statement and embarked on a sweeping campaign to encourage colleges and universities to adopt it. FIRE has since written to hundreds of faculty members, students, and student journalists at institutions across the nation, and visited dozens of campuses to build support for freedom of expression by educating students and faculty members on the importance of protecting free expression. In a bid to drive further support, FIRE has launched an online endorsement drive and provided students, faculty, and concerned alumni with form letters as well as sample student and faculty government resolutions calling for the implementation of the Chicago Statement.
FIRE commends the CUNY Faculty Senate for adopting the Chicago Statement and the Medgar Evers College Faculty Senate for affirming it. We remain hopeful that CUNY as a whole will be quick to follow suit.