Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Freedom of speech - going broader

The University of Chicago led the way toward free speech on campus that conservatives liked and now similar approaches are being taken by other institutions. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) report indicated that increases in on-line instruction coupled with more student activism is the cause of increased complaints that students' free speech is being violated. Seventy-eight institutions or faculty bodies have endorsed the Chicago Principles that includes the statement, "it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive." Eight additional institutions have incorporated the Chicago Principles into their campus policies, a move that conservatives celebrate and diversity advocates worry will increase openly expressed hostility toward minority groups on campus.

The Supreme Court supported the appeal of students at Gwinnett College in Georgia who asserted that their free speech had been violated by restrictions about the place of expression and required prior approval. A nonpartisan faculty group has also formed and will likely influence the ongoing considerations related to how freedom of speech can be protected. Keith Whittington, a professor at Princeton and chair of the faculty group's academic committee said, "I think it's important that we be able to talk across some of these divides in order to convey the real sense that there's a shared threat here. I do think it's true that those on the right and those on the left can easily imagine that they're the only ones being threatened."