University of Texas at Austin student government urges official adoption of ‘Chicago Statement’

February 22, 2019

Earlier this week, the student government at the University of Texas at Austin approved a resolution endorsing the body’s “support of free speech and free expression rights of all students.” The resolution urges the university administration to adopt the “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression” at the University of Chicago (the “Chicago Statement”), and more generally work to improve the climate for free expression on campus.

The resolution, principally authored by College of the Liberal Arts representative Lillian Bonin, who also serves as the Vice Chairman of the UT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas, is intended to encourage the university administration to prioritize free expression on campus. Reflecting on the resolution’s purpose, Lillian noted the importance of dialogue: “As the flagship university for system, I thought this was a tremendous opportunity to formally gather student body support through their elected representatives to both encourage the Chancellor to follow through on his proposal [to adopt the Chicago Statement] as well as provide support for him in his conversations on the matter.”

Titled “In Support of the University of Texas at Austin Adopting the Chicago Statement for Free Speech and Student Rights,” the resolution includes an informative “frequently asked questions” section which proactively responds to many critiques levied at adopting free speech policy statements. Quoting liberally from the Chicago Statement itself, the resolution affirms that the university is a place to expand knowledge, and that all members of the community should be granted the “broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.”

Jordan Cope, the resolution’s co-author and a law student at the university, hopes the resolution will have a broad impact for students. Jordan shared his thoughts with FIRE over email, emphasizing his desire that the resolution “will encourage intellectually and ideologically diverse students to realize that they are welcome on our campus.”

Citing increased adoptions of the Chicago Statement at institutions nationwide, UT Austin’s current “red light” rating from FIRE, and the importance of free expression to a university’s educational mission, the resolution makes a compelling case for the adoption of such an institutional policy statement to encourage freedom of expression. The resolution concludes with a call to action, ordering that copies of the resolution be sent to the Board of Regents, the UT System Chancellor, and other high level administrators.

FIRE applauds the UT Austin student government for recognizing the value of protecting and encouraging freedom of expression on their campus. The resolution has already sparked thoughtful dialogue and debate on campus, and we look forward to seeing more discussion going forward. We urge you to read the resolution in full here.

Interested in adopting a free speech statement on your campus? Contact us today!


Schools:  University of Texas at Austin