PHILADELPHIA, September 28, 2015—Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is launching a national campaign asking colleges and universities to adopt the free speech policy statement produced by the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago earlier this year. In Sunday’s edition of The Washington Post, University of Chicago law professor and interim dean Geoffrey Stone and FIRE’s Will Creeley explained in an op-ed why the Chicago statement is urgently needed on campuses nationwide.
FIRE has written hundreds of faculty members, students, and student journalists at institutions nationwide to build momentum in support of the Chicago statement and strongly encourages supporters to join the effort by writing their alma maters or local institutions. FIRE endorsed the statement in January, and the editorial boards of USA TODAY and the New York Daily News have called for other universities to follow its example.
Authored by a committee chaired by Stone, the statement eloquently captures the importance of freedom of expression at colleges and universities. The statement guarantees “all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn,” and 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.” That position was echoed by President Obama in remarks made earlier this month at a town hall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa.
Momentum behind the statement’s widespread adoption is growing. Princeton University and Purdue University adopted the core values of the statement into their own policies earlier this year. Earlier this month, Johns Hopkins University announced a new academic freedom policy embracing the spirit of the Chicago statement, and faculty at American University endorsed a similar set of principles in a faculty senate resolution. Last Thursday, the general faculty of Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina endorsed the Chicago principles, bringing the statement to its first historically black college or university.
“The University of Chicago statement on free expression isn’t just for the University of Chicago,” said FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff. “The statement deserves to take a place alongside the American Association of University Professors’ famous 1915 ‘Declaration of Principles,’ its 1940 ‘Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure,’ Yale University’s Woodward Report, and the University of Chicago’s own Kalven Report as inspiring statements on the unique importance of free speech to any university community.”
“Academic freedom and a robust commitment to freedom of expression are not merely good ideas; they are the heart and soul of a university,” said Stone. “A university that is not fully committed to those values has no right to call itself a university.”
FIRE is not the only organization to encourage America’s colleges and universities to codify the principles put forth by the Chicago statement. Earlier this summer, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni sent a letter to more than 19,000 college and university trustees, urging college governing boards to demand the free exchange of ideas on campus.
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.
Greg Lukianoff, President and CEO, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org
Geoffrey R. Stone, Interim Dean and Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law, University of Chicago: 773-702-4907; email@example.com
Katie Barrows, Communications Coordinator, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org