Sunday, December 24, 2023

Do We Have A Free Speech Code That Respects Academic Freedom?

In recent years, different movements and protests have ensnared college campuses, from #Me Too and Black Lives Matter, to LGBTQ rights and the Israel-Hamas War. What do we do about free speech, book bans, censorship, and the cancel culture? Are their limitations to wokeness, especially on campuses? 


The Academic Freedom Alliance ( recently released a statement about how campus activities need to unfold so as to not alienate people trying to get an education while not suppressing free speech merely because the voicing of some views are unpopular with many. It discusses the rights and responsibilities of students and professors, both in and out of the classroom, and both on or off campus. 


Can we find a way to peacefully protest, to challenge beliefs, and to speak our minds while not hurting others, threatening them, resorting to fighting words, or disturbing the main purpose of a school - to safely get an education and earn a degree?


It seems things are getting to be more confrontational and more biased when it comes to campus politics and events. It seems everyone is triggered these days and few schools seem to have a handle on things.


A lot of campus debate involves hateful or threatening speech. People simply don’t feel safe or valued on campus. They just want to learn in peace, free of indoctrination or persecution by people who are ignorant and unaware. Campuses are no longer locations of learning and free expression; they are hate-centers grooming weak minds that aren’t really qualified to be at the school they attend. This is what happens when schools are filled with quota hires and merit=less student admissions. 


Here’s what the Academic Freedom Alliance said in regards to campus protests and activism at schools: 


“Separate from the merits of any particular controversy, there are several well-established

principles that should guide universities in responding to individual controversies.

Universities should reaffirm and recommit themselves to principles that help preserve

American institutions of higher education as vibrant homes of free inquiry.

Professors must enjoy the liberty to discuss and even promote controversial ideas and to

present controversial materials to students in their classes.


“Professors have an obligation, however, not to take advantage of their captive audience of students by introducing ideas or materials that are not germane to the subject matter of their class. Likewise, professors have a responsibility not to exploit their privileged position to attempt to indoctrinate students or to subject them to political or ideological litmus tests or pressures in their classroom assignments. Nor do professors have a right to compromise the education of their students by conducting their classes in a manner designed simply to advance their favored political causes. Universities must resist calls to censor what is taught in classrooms, but they must also ensure that classes are used for proper educational purposes.


“Professors, like other members of the campus community, should enjoy the freedom to

speak and act as citizens. When speaking in public in their personal capacity, professors

may give voice to controversial and even extreme political and social opinions that others

might find offensive or disturbing. When professors at American universities speak in

public in a manner that is lawful under the First Amendment, universities should stand

behind their right to express such views.


“Universities should insist that professors, as well as other members of the campus community, adhere to content-neutral regulations regarding the time, place, and manner of public speech on campus, but universities must strive to apply those rules in an even-handed and consistent manner regardless of the substantive views of those expressing themselves. Universities should refrain from punishing members of the faculty simply because some think their private political

speech is intemperate, uncivil, dishonest, or disrespectful. Professors should be judged

and held accountable for their professional speech and conduct, not for their political



“Professors have no more right than other members of the campus community to disrupt

the proper functioning of the university and its activities, and professors, like other

members of the campus community, have a right to conduct their activities without

improper disruption by others. Universities must take steps to ensure that campus

protests do not interfere with the conduct of classes or hinder academic and educational

activities on campus.


“Members of the campus community have the right to engage in vigorous political debate

and even to articulate extreme political views, but they have no right to try to intimidate

or menace other members of the community, violate university policies or state and

federal laws, or interfere with the education or lawful activities of other members of the

campus community. Any violations of university policies should be expeditiously

investigated and university rules protecting the integrity of its mission should be

stringently enforced.


“Violations of the law, irrespective of their motivation, should be referred to appropriate law enforcement agencies. Any member of the campus community who chooses to violate laws or the universities own rules and policies should expect to be held accountable for the full consequences of their actions. The university should enforce its policies guaranteeing that the campus serves as a genuine educational and scholarly institution. It is the responsibility of university leaders to ensure that the teaching and research missions of their institutions are not sacrificed on the altar of politics.


“The university should serve as a neutral and peaceful forum for robust political and social

debate. Universities will be distrusted and ultimately weakened if they are perceived to

be inconsistent in their adherence to their own stated principles, understood to be

willing to sacrifice their own scholarly mission to political causes, or thought unwilling to

secure the physical safety of their community members and the integrity of their



“Today American universities are being tested. It is essential that they pass the test by

rededicating themselves to their core scholarly missions and acting consistently and in

good faith on the principles that preserve free inquiry and open debate.”


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