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Florida’s Eckerd College Adopts Free Speech Statement

Eckerd College, a small liberal arts school in Florida, has become the latest institution to adopt a version of the Chicago Statement—the 2015 policy statement on free speech and academic freedom that FIRE has called the gold standard for commitments to freedom of expression at colleges and universities. Faculty at the St. Petersburg-area liberal arts college unanimously adopted the statement at their final meeting last year, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times.

Eckerd joins 16 other institutions like Princeton University, Purdue University, and the City University of New York at which administrators or faculty bodies have adopted a version of the statement.

Eckerd has yet to release its statement, but the Times reports that it borrows heavily from the University of Chicago’s wording:

"Without a vibrant commitment to free and open inquiry, a college ceases to be a college," the [Eckerd] document says, borrowing from a statement released in 2015 by the University of Chicago.

FIRE endorsed the Chicago Statement when it was released in 2015 and has since launched a national campaign to encourage other schools to adopt their own statements in support of free expression. The Chicago Statement acknowledges, among other commitments to free speech and academic freedom, that “[b]ecause the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.”

Eckerd’s dean of faculty, Suzan Harrison, told the Times that “[c]ollege should challenge the set of beliefs you arrive with … That’s part of the point of college, to expose you to new ideas, some of which will make you uncomfortable.”

We couldn’t agree more, and commend Eckerd for taking this important step to protect freedom of expression and inquiry on campus.

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