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Big win for students, faculty as Furman University adopts free speech statement

Entrance sign at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.

Bryan Pollard /

Good news out of Furman University

Last week, Furman joined more than 100 other colleges and universities that have codified the expressive rights of their campus communities into official school policy. With this action, Furman’s leadership has proclaimed to the entire Furman community that the university is a place where ideas can be openly debated without fear of administrative reprisal.

Furman’s new policy statement — the Statement on Freedom of Inquiry and Expression — declares that the university “unequivocally affirms its commitment to free inquiry and free expression,” and states, “These core values uphold the foundational belief that diverse views and perspectives deserve to be articulated and heard, free from interference.” 

The Furman board of trustees voted unanimously on Feb. 21 to adopt the statement after an endorsement by the president and the majority of the faculty, and became one of 107 colleges or college systems in the nation to adopt such a statement to protect free speech rights based on the “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago,” better known as the Chicago Statement

University of Chicago

Chicago Statement: University and Faculty Body Support

Statements & Policies

The “Chicago Statement” is a model free speech policy statement that many universities have adopted, affirming their commitment to free expression.

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FIRE congratulates the entire campus community, including the Furman Free Speech Alliance, an alumni group dedicated to promoting free expression, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity at Furman. The group has now met its first goal: “for the university to adopt the Chicago Statement on Freedom of Expression,” or an equivalent free speech statement. The alumni look forward to reforming the university’s policies and culture surrounding free expression in light of this development. 

Over the last year, Furman has shown a growing interest in educating its students in the importance of civil discourse. The university’s On Discourse event series provides ongoing opportunities for students to hear from those with opposing viewpoints. 

We’d love to see Furman take free speech reform a step further by revising its problematic “red light” and “yellow light” policies to align with First Amendment standards and receive an overall “green light” rating from FIRE. We stand ready to assist the administration in this endeavor.

Want your university to be next? Contact FIRE’s alumni department at to learn more about how to start your own alumni group. 

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