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Increasing calls for adoption of the ‘Chicago Statement’ on free expression

By March 15, 2018

FIRE has touted the benefits of adopting a free speech policy modeled after the “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression” at the University of Chicago (better known as the “Chicago Statement”) since its introduction in 2015. In recent weeks, several commentators have joined FIRE — and many others — to encourage colleges and universities to adopt a principled statement on freedom of expression.

In a recent Forbes article entitled “35 Universities Adopt ‘The Chicago Statement’ On Free Speech–1,606 To Go,” the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Tom Lindsay encourages institutions to adopt a free speech policy modeled after the Chicago Statement. Although he laments the fact that there are still many schools to convince — 1,606 public universities according to his figures — Lindsay rightly highlights the merits of the statement.

He writes:

If our students are deprived of the growth opportunities provided by encountering and debating ideas with which they disagree, they will come to lack the qualities essential to informed, effective citizenship.

Exactly. Just as we noted shortly after FIRE launched a national campaign to support widespread adoption of the Chicago Statement, the statement’s inherent value is found in its powerful endorsement of robust discussion and debate, beyond mere compliance with the First Amendment. The statement not only echoes core First Amendment principles, but broadly expands upon them, envisioning a campus climate that values free expression as the lifeblood of the university.

Likewise, two other pieces from this week feature ringing endorsements of the Chicago Statement.

The editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette urges institutions in its home state of Pennsylvania to adopt the statement, writing “Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities should be searching for ways to prove they will defend the right to free speech and open debate on their campuses without governmental intervention.”

Similarly, an editorial in the Toledo, Ohio newspaper The Blade encourages institutions in its own state to adopt a free speech statement modeled after the Chicago Statement. The author explains that shielding students from “difficult concepts and creating ideological echo chambers has proven to have a negative impact on the academic environment. It must be stopped if we wish to see growth and intellectual development in our students.”

FIRE is pleased to see increasing numbers of students, commentators, faculty members, administrators, and others recognize the importance of adopting a principled policy statement in order to improve the state of free speech on campus. If you would like to encourage adoption of a statement on free expression at your university, contact us today!

Schools: University of Chicago Cases: FIRE Launches Campaign in Support of University of Chicago Free Speech Statement