Adopting Institutional Neutrality

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“The instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student. The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.” 

Institutional Neutrality is the idea that colleges and universities should not, as institutions, take positions on social and political issues unless those issues “threaten the very mission of the university and its values of free inquiry.” Instead, these discussions should be left to students and faculty. 

This concept was formalized at the University of Chicago in 1967 when a committee chaired by legal scholar Harry Kalven, Jr. released its Report on the University’s Role in Political and Social Action. That document, now known simply as the “Kalven Report,” concluded institutional neutrality is the best way for universities to navigate heated social and political debates without chilling student and faculty expression.

In light of the challenges facing the academy and the world, and for all the reasons identified in the Kalven Report, FIRE urges colleges and universities to adopt a position of institutional neutrality.

Institutions such as the University of North Carolina SystemVanderbilt University, the University of Wyoming — and, of course, the University of Chicago — have adopted official positions on institutional neutrality. Whether you are a student, faculty member, or alumnus interested in advocating for your institution to adopt institutional neutrality or an administrator interested in these principles, FIRE is here to help. 

FIRE’s Institutional Neutrality Resources:

Report on the Universitys Role in Political and Social Action (the Kalven Report)

The wisdom of the University of Chicagos Kalven Report

Frequently Asked Questions: Institutional neutrality and the Kalven Report

Fast Facts: Adopting Institutional Neutrality

Adoptions of an Official Position of Institutional Neutrality