Tufts President Promises To Protect Speech ‘No Matter How Unpopular Or Provocative’

January 15, 2015

By Greg Piper at The College Fix

Tufts University President Anthony Monaco is tired of dealing with the heckler’s veto against unpopular speakers or programs on campus, he writes in a Tufts Daily op-ed:

It is our responsibility to offer and encourage opportunities for our students to debate and contemplate a gamut of opinions, ideas and viewpoints — in classroom discussions and readings, in the laboratory, in our studios and performance halls and through the speakers and conferences we host on campus. …

Members of our community have challenged the administration, and each other, on social and political issues, most recently on fossil fuel divestment, sexual assault, international affairs and Tufts’ relations with its custodial staff and part-time faculty. I welcome and encourage these exchanges. With issues as complex as these, we cannot broaden our insights without a full airing of many viewpoints. …

The school won’t tolerate expression that involves “threats, intimidation or harassment” (yes, you can drive a truck through those loopholes), but “we need to protect all points of view, no matter how unpopular or provocative, to advance our mission as an educational institution,” Monaco says:

I have been deeply troubled by calls on our own and other university campuses to silence speech. At some institutions, commencement speakers have been denied the right to be heard. Here at Tufts, we have been urged by members of our own community, both on and off campus, to cancel programs and speakers. When debate is stifled, everyone loses.

I strongly believe that the best response to offensive speech is more speech. And I fervently defend the principles of academic freedom and the right of all members of this community to express their views on any issue.

As Peter Bonilla of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education tweeted, “Amen, President Monaco. We will hold you to your word.”

Tufts has a “red light” speech-code rating from FIRE for its broad harassment policy. Its students’ bill of rights also says they have a right to be free from “emotional harm.”

Schools: Tufts University