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‘The Economist’ Covers Chicago Statement on Free Speech and FIRE

By January 29, 2016

The Economist explores the growing trend of colleges adopting the University of Chicago’s free speech policy statement in its latest issue, out tomorrow.

The Chicago statement sets forth important principles for protecting free speech on campus, and its adoption can help secure the kind of free and open discourse necessary to the pursuit of knowledge. FIRE formally endorsed the statement in early 2015 and launched a national campaign in September encouraging other institutions to adopt it.

The Economist cites publicity surrounding recent high-profile speech controversies on our nation’s campuses for the uptick in interest in adoption of the Chicago statement, adding that “[a]dministrators are tying themselves in knots in an effort to balance a commitment to free expression with a desire not to offend”:

One consequence of this has been to call attention to the Chicago Statement, which has been adopted by Purdue, Princeton, American University, Johns Hopkins, Chapman, Winston-Salem State and the University of Wisconsin system, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (Fire), a pro free-speech non-profit which is actively promoting it. It is brief (three pages) and emphatic.

We have reported on schools adopting the statement (or variations of it) here on The Torch.

Last September, Geoffrey Stone, the University of Chicago Law School professor who chaired the committee that produced the statement, and FIRE’s Vice President for Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley wrote an editorial in The Washington Post asking colleges and universities to reaffirm their commitments to free expression. Stone and Creeley explained why the Chicago statement is desperately needed on our nation’s campuses:

Restrictions on free expression on college campuses are incompatible with the fundamental values of higher education. At public institutions, they violate the First Amendment; at most private institutions, they break faith with stated commitments to academic freedom. And these restrictions are widespread: The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s most recent survey of college and university policies found that more than 55 percent of institutions maintain illiberal speech codes that prohibit what should be protected speech. For students and faculty, the message is clear: Speaking your mind means putting your education or your career at risk.

Stone also sat down with FIRE for a video interview about the statement that same month.

You don’t have to wait for a hard copy of The Economist, available on newsstands tomorrow; the story is available to read now on The Economist’s website.

Schools: University of Chicago Cases: FIRE Launches Campaign in Support of University of Chicago Free Speech Statement