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Students come together for UChicago free speech meetup, release statement

At the urging of a FIRE Student Network member, a small group of students from across the country converged on the University of Chicago this weekend with a big goal: Start a free speech movement.

Inside Higher Ed reports 25 students from various colleges and universities met “to try to start a movement in which students would become leading defenders of free speech on campus -- including speech that they find offensive.”

“Free speech and expression is and must remain a truly nonpartisan issue,” said event organizer, FIRE Student Network member, and UChicago undergraduate Matthew Foldi in a written statement to FIRE today. “That’s why I was so glad to invite a group of original signatories from all across the country and of all ideological stripes come to UChicago to work on crafting a strong Statement of Principles.”

While Foldi’s group doesn’t yet have a name, it is actively soliciting signatures for their new statement, which reads in part:

A central purpose of education is to teach students to challenge themselves and engage with opposing perspectives. Our ability to listen to, wrestle with, and ultimately decide between contending viewpoints fosters mutual understanding as well as personal and societal growth. The active defense of free and open discourse is crucial for our society to continue to thrive as a democracy premised on the open debate of ideas. The only way to achieve this is by cultivating a culture where all are free to communicate without fear of censorship or intimidation. While some speech may be objectionable and even hateful, constitutionally protected speech ought to be held and enforced as the standard and must not be infringed upon.

Foldi said the impetus for the event was frustration among students and administrators alike with a multitude of events nationwide where free speech has seemed under attack.

“A college education is incomplete without exposure to a wide variety of ideas and beliefs, both inside and outside the classroom,” Foldi explained to FIRE.

We are pleased to see Foldi and his group work in support of the preservation of free speech and the promotion of open dialogue on campus. FIRE encourages all readers to show their support by signing onto the free speech statement that Matthew helped draft.

If you would like to fight for free speech on your campus, we’d like to hear from you. Whether you want to work to get the Chicago Statement adopted at your school, host a FIRE speaker, rally support for speech code reforms, or launch an on-campus event, FIRE has the tools to back you up. You can reach out to us at

In the meantime, read the full report on these developments and the full statement from this weekend’s student gathering at the University of Chicago at Inside Higher Ed.

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