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Winston-Salem State University General Faculty Resolution Adopting Chicago Principles of Freedom of Expression

The General Faculty of Winston-Salem State University's resolution regarding the Chicago Principles, passed by a vote of 100 to 8 on September 24, 2015:

The General Faculty of Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) resolves that WSSU is an institution fully committed to the creation of knowledge across the spectrum of disciplines and professions, firm in its belief that a culture of intense inquiry and informed argument generates lasting ideas, and that the members of its community have a responsibility both to challenge and to listen:

A university ceases to be a university unless it upholds the highest standards of freedom of inquiry and intellectual engagement. The Chicago Principles of Freedom of Expression endorsed now by Princeton University, Purdue University, the University of Chicago, and the Faculty Senate of Winston-Salem State University (by a vote of 36 in favor, zero against, with one abstention on September 10, 2015) stand as a commitment to this lofty ideal. The WSSU General Faculty is endorsing these principles by this resolution and these principles are fully provided in the text that follows. Because the WSSU General Faculty is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, the WSSU General Faculty believes that WSSU needs to guarantee all members of the university community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of the university, WSSU needs to fully respect and support the freedom of all students, faculty and staff “to discuss any problem that presents itself,” free of interference.

This is not to say that this freedom is absolute. In narrowly-defined circumstances, WSSU may properly restrict expression, for example, that violates the law, is threatening, harassing, or defamatory, or invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests. Moreover, WSSU may reasonably regulate the time, place and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of WSSU.

Fundamentally, however, the General Faculty of WSSU calls on the university administration to be committed as a matter of policy to the principle that it may not restrict debate or deliberation because the ideas put forth are thought to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the members of the WSSU community to make those judgments for themselves.

As a corollary to this commitment, members of the WSSU community must also act in conformity with this principle. Although faculty, students and staff are free to criticize, contest and condemn the views expressed on campus, they may not obstruct, disrupt, or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe.

For members of the WSSU community, as for WSSU itself, the proper response to ideas they find offensive, unwarranted and dangerous is not interference, obstruction, or suppression. It is, instead, to engage in robust counter-speech that challenges the merits of those ideas and exposes them for what they are. To this end, the General Faculty of WSSU 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 for reasons other than those enumerated above.

WSSU’s General Faculty’s commitment to these principles are the bedrock that is at the very core of WSSU’s greatness.