By Tribune Wire Reports at Chicago Tribune
A new policy at Purdue University stresses its commitment to free speech regardless of how “unwelcome, disagreeable or even deeply offensive” the language is.
Trustees this month approved a policy modeled on free speech principles first approved by the University of Chicago in January. The move makes Purdue the first public university to adopt the measure, which also is in place at Princeton University.
The “Chicago principles” arose from a string of events that tested universities’ commitment to open discourse, according to a report by University of Chicago’s Committee on Freedom of Expression. The group was formed in July 2014 after incidents in which students on campuses across the country tried to bar controversial commencement speakers.
Purdue’s policy states that members of the university are free to criticize speakers but says they “may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe.”
Trustees Chairman Tom Spurgeon said the principles signal Purdue’s commitment to free speech.
“A university violates its special mission if it fails to protect free and open debate. No one can expect his views to be free from vigorous challenge, but all must feel completely safe in speaking out,” he said in a university news release.
Purdue President Mitch Daniels told Reason magazine that Purdue feels strongly about respecting and protecting free speech.
“I think that the spirit of free inquiry is still strong on our campus and I hope on most, but clearly there are places where it’s violated in truly unfortunate ways,” he said.
Despite adoption of the policy, students and faculty might not notice a lot of change. Most speech is already permitted unless it violates the law, is falsely defamatory, constitutes a genuine threat or harassment or invades privacy or confidentiality, the Journal & Courier reported. Those limits will continue under the new policy.
Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which promotes free expression in education, applauded Purdue’s move and said he hopes other universities follow suit.