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Harvard Law’s Randall Kennedy Praises Chicago Statement in Princeton Commencement Address

Addressing Princeton University’s Class of 2016 on Sunday, Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy singled out Princeton’s adoption of the University of Chicago’s statement on campus free expression as one of the reasons Princeton students are especially well-suited to become “ambassadors of higher education” when they graduate.

Kennedy said, “Being an ambassador for higher education means embracing opportunities to advance the best versions of collegiate and university life.”

He asked students to be mindful of the important role of higher education in society and reminded them that colleges and universities need the help of former students. He told the new grads that Princeton-educated students are specially equipped to give back, citing Princeton’s adoption of the Chicago Statement:

This university, committed as it is to fostering creativity and independence, strenuously supports academic freedom and the other varieties of freedom of expression. Voicing that support, the faculty, backed by its marvelous president, formally adopted a statement which declares forthrightly that at Princeton debate "may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the community to be offensive, unwise, immoral or wrong-headed." The University, the faculty concludes, "has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it."

As we reported here on The Torch last September, Princeton was the first university to adopt the Chicago Statement after FIRE formally endorsed it in January 2015.

FIRE launched its national campaign last September, encouraging schools to adopt their own version of the statement. To date, faculty bodies or the administration at 13 colleges and universities have done so.

Kennedy’s insightful remarks on the importance of higher education in society, and the crucial role free speech plays, are worth reading in full.

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