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University of Central Florida faculty adopt ‘Chicago Statement’; university reforms speech code

The University of Central Florida (UCF) is no longer a “red light” institution after making a significant policy change in recent months. Furthermore, UCF’s faculty senate has adopted a free speech policy statement modeled after the “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression” at the University of Chicago (better known as the “Chicago Statement”).

Several professors committed to free expression worked with FIRE’s Policy Reform team to revise a red light information technology use policy that substantially restricted the free speech rights of students. That change leaves UCF with only one “yellow light” policy — a “Bias-Related Incidents” policy — that prevents the university from earning the coveted “green light” rating.

To further its recent commitment to protecting free expression on campus, the university’s faculty senate adopted a version of the Chicago Statement in October. In doing so, the faculty formalized its promise of academic freedom and open discourse on UCF’s campus in one succinct statement. Largely modeled after the Chicago Statement, the faculty senate affirmed the university’s “commit[ment] to free and open inquiry in all matters.” The statement goes on to endorse the free and robust exchange of ideas at length:

The University of Central Florida’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose.

Following the UCF faculty senate endorsement this fall, the university becomes the second institution in Florida (along with Eckerd College) whose faculty body has adopted a policy statement modeled after the Chicago Statement. Proactive adoption of a free speech statement helps administrators avoid criticism when controversy erupts on campus, announces to students, faculty, and the public at large that the institution is committed to free and open dialogue, and serves as a valuable conversation starter in the ongoing national debate about free speech. FIRE encourages other Florida institutions — and colleges and universities nationwide — to follow suit.

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