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The 10 Elements of Free Speech on Campus

The purpose of this post is to highlight the main points of the University of Chicago’s 2012 “Statement Of Principles On Free Inquiry,” later published as its “Statement Of Principles On Free Expression.”
  1. Vision: The purpose of a university is “free and open inquiry in all matters.”
  2. Mission: Therefore “it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn.”
  3. Limits: This is not an “absolute” right.
  4. Common sense: Exceptions may include “expression, for example, that violates the law, is threatening, harassing, or defamatory, or invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests.”
  5. Operations: “Moreover, the University may reasonably regulate the time, place and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the University.”
  6. No Paternalism: Despite the need for some restrictions, “the University is committed 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 University community to make those judgments for themselves.”
  7. No Peer Pressure: Commitment by the university means that “members of the University 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.”
  8. Brainpower Is Your Power: “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.”
  9. Protect Unpopular Ideas: “To this end, the University 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.
  10. Brand Essence: “As Robert M. Hutchins observed, without a vibrant commitment to free and open inquiry, a university ceases to be a university. Commitment to this principle lies at the very core of the University’s greatness.”
Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. Photo of the University of Maryland’s McKeldin Library by rainesUMD via Pixabay (Creative Commons):

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