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Association of Public & Land-grant Universities commits to free speech

This month, the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities (APLU) adopted a “Commitment to Free Speech,” making it the second major higher education organization to adopt such a policy statement in April.

These recent endorsements of freedom of expression by higher education groups follow the increasingly common phenomenon of individual colleges and universities adopting free speech statements. This is a trend FIRE has observed in the years since the introduction of the “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression” at the University of Chicago (better known as the “Chicago Statement”) in 2015. In fact, since that time, FIRE has spearheaded a campaign aimed at encouraging colleges and universities across the nation to adopt principled free speech statements based on the Chicago Statement.

The APLU, which boasts a membership of 237 institutions and affiliate organizations, strongly endorses freedom of expression in the short statement released last week. The statement, which echoes the themes of the Chicago Statement, highlights the importance of the principles of free expression and their inherent value. Additionally, since the APLU’s membership is composed of public universities, the statement properly notes that “public universities are rightly held to constitutional standards for protecting speech.” However, this statement admirably goes beyond the confines of the First Amendment and aspires for its member universities to inspire and educate their students by exposing them “to an array of ideas and opinions – those with which they agree and, importantly, those that challenge their perspectives and worldview.”

The statement concludes with a charge to APLU member institutions. The APLU not only asks its members to refrain from infringing on protected expression as required by the First Amendment, but also encourages them to foster its growth:

With a mission to advance the public interest, public universities have a responsibility to not just to be outspoken advocates for free speech, but leaders in providing a forum for civil discourse and disagreement.

FIRE is pleased to see the APLU commit to freedom of expression in a principled public statement. In fact, several of its member institutions have already prioritized freedom of expression by endorsing the Chicago Statement. If you would like to see your college or university adopt a free speech statement, contact us today.

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