Nevada System of Higher Education becomes first in state to adopt ‘Chicago Statement’

March 11, 2019

The Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents has voted to adopt “Freedom of Expression: Aspirational Statement of Values,” a statement that embraces the principles articulated in the “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression” at the University of Chicago (the “Chicago Statement”). NSHE, which voted on March 1 to adopt the statement, is the first educational institution in the state of Nevada to endorse a version of the Chicago Statement. With its endorsement, NSHE becomes the seventh university system to adopt the Chicago Statement and the 58th overall institution or faculty body to adopt it nationwide.

The Nevada System of Higher Education and its eight institutions have always sought to balance First Amendment principles with our Nevada values of diversity, inclusivity, and critical thinking in higher education,” said NSHE Chancellor Thom Reilly.

“Our freedom of expression policy will provide guidance to the students, faculty, and institutions across our statewide system,” Reilly said. “Through a collaborative stakeholder process, I am proud of what we achieved.”

NSHE’s statement, billed as an aspirational statement of values, details the type of vibrant campus community the Board seeks to cultivate. The Board’s vision is one of a campus community that fully embraces free and open inquiry and discourse, even when those discussions bring up topics that are uncomfortable or offensive to some members of the community. As the new statement declares, NSHE and its eight member institutions “are committed to the principle that it may not restrict or suppress debate or deliberation because the ideas put forth are thought to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or misguided.”

The statement goes on to point out the inherent wisdom of this approach: “History shows that when institutions of higher education attempt to censor or punish the free expression of ideas, they undermine their core function of promoting rational discussion, inquiry, discovery, and the dissemination of knowledge.”

The statement further defines the role of the governing body and its member institutions, sharing the Chicago Statement’s perspective that “[i]t is not the proper response of NSHE and its institutions to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. It is for members of the NSHE community to make those judgments for themselves.”

FIRE is pleased to commend NSHE for actively promoting and encouraging free expression by adopting a free speech policy statement. Interested in encouraging your college or university to commit to freedom of expression through the adoption of a policy statement? Contact us today!