Freedom of speech is a bedrock value of our constitutional system and is at the core of this university’s mission. Courts have recognized that First Amendment principles “acquire a special significance in the university setting, where the free and unfettered interplay of competing views is essential to the institution’s educational mission.” The University of California is also committed to upholding and preserving academic freedom, which for the faculty encompasses freedom of inquiry and research, freedom of teaching, and freedom of expression and publication.
Free speech requires us to accept that we will be exposed to viewpoints, arguments or forms of expression that make us uncomfortable or even offend us. It is in precisely these circumstances that free speech often serves its most vital purpose, especially in an educational context. Throughout history, speech that challenges conventional wisdom has been a driving force for progress. Speech that makes us uneasy may compel us to reconsider our own strongly held views – in fact, a willingness to reconsider strongly held views is one of the reasons why people pursue higher education. Hearing offensive viewpoints provides opportunities for those sentiments to be exposed, engaged and rebutted.
Universities exist to provide the conditions for hard thought and difficult debate so that individuals can develop the capacity for independent judgment. This cannot happen if universities attempt to shield people from ideas and opinions they might find unwelcome, or if members of the university community try to silence or interfere with speakers with whom they disagree. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis advised in his famous Whitney v. California opinion in 1927, “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”