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Capital University Students Rally Behind the Chicago Statement

In an exciting development for freedom of speech at Capital University (CU) in Columbus, Ohio, the student senate passed a resolution late last month affirming the principles of the Chicago Statement on freedom of expression and asking CU’s board of trustees to formally adopt it. The legislation was passed with unanimous consent.

The bill was authored by senators Dahkota Parish and Aubrey Searcy and co-sponsored by senator Allison Kerman. Dahkota is president of CU’s Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter, and Aubrey is a member.

After the resolution passed January 31, the chapter started a petition to gather support for the Chicago Statement from the greater student body and has teamed up with the CU Debate Team to hold a panel of free speech experts in support of the agenda. Student activists will be tabling and distributing resources in the days leading up to the panel, which will take place Thursday, February 16 from 7-8:30 p.m. FIRE’s Tyler Coward will speak.

In a statement provided to FIRE, YAL chapter president Parish responded to the student senate vote:

[The student senate’s] actions showed that we as a student body are ready to embrace free speech and free expression, and ready to embrace the responsibilities that they carry with them. I am very excited to see where this will take us, and if nothing more, bring clarification [...] and create a healthy dialogue for future students.

FIRE is hopeful that the board of trustees will soon join the 17 other institutions at which faculty governing bodies or administrators have officially endorsed the Chicago Statement. Those institutions include Princeton University, Purdue University, Johns Hopkins University, American University, Chapman University, Winston-Salem State University, the University of Wisconsin System (which includes 26 campuses), the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, Columbia University, Louisiana State University, Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt University.

In January 2015, FIRE endorsed the Chicago Statement as the gold standard for committing to protect free speech on campus and embarked on a sweeping campaign to encourage colleges and universities to adopt it. FIRE has since written to hundreds of faculty members, students, and student journalists at institutions across the nation, and visited dozens of campuses to build support for the Chicago Statement by educating students and faculty members on the importance of protecting free expression.

In a bid to drive further support, FIRE has provided students, faculty, and concerned alumni with form letters and sample student and faculty government resolutions calling for the implementation of the Chicago Statement.

FIRE commends the CU YAL chapter for leading this nonpartisan initiative on their campus, and the student senate for adopting it. We are hopeful CU’s board of trustees will heed the call of the CU student community and take steps to make the student senate’s endorsement of the Chicago Statement official.

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