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Geoffrey Stone on the University of Chicago’s Statement on Free Expression

In this video, Geoffrey Stone talks about his role in the crafting of the University of Chicago’s groundbreaking statement on freedom of expression. Stone, a renowned professor at the University of Chicago Law School, chaired the committee that crafted the statement. The language has since been endorsed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and USA Today as model language that should be used to enshrine robust speech protections for faculty and students on campuses everywhere.

“Universities should not take ideological or political positions,” said Stone of the philosophical ideals that guided the committee. “It’s essential for universities to remain neutral with respect to these sorts of issues.” Otherwise, he said, students and faculty are discouraged from disagreeing with the university.

Stone also points to a long tradition of free speech at the University of Chicago that sets it apart.

“I think Chicago’s commitment to free speech is unique among American universities,” said Stone, citing the university’s Kalven Report report from the 1960s, which espoused a limited role for universities in political and social actions.

In a sense, said Stone, the university is “handcuffing itself in order to make sure that people feel free to contest ideas that they or the leaders of the university or the trustees of the universities might disagree with.”

Stone also praised FIRE for its role in helping the committee craft ideal language to protect free speech on campus.

“One of the first people I contacted when I was asked to chair this committee was [FIRE’s] Greg Lukianoff,” said Stone. “I wanted to know what FIRE’s positions were on these issues.”

The statement has already been adopted by both Princeton University and Purdue University to protect speech on their campuses, and garnered more recent attention after President Obama said college students need to engage with controversial speech on campus.

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