November 13, 2011
To: Students, Staff, and Faculty
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Provost, and Kimberly Goff-Crews, Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students
Re: Freedom of Expression
Over the course of this academic year, we have had, and will continue to have, many events featuring spirited debate about a variety of topics, academic and otherwise. This is in keeping with our commitment to a core value of rigorous inquiry, which has been a central feature of the University of Chicago’s distinctive culture throughout its history.
Constant and deliberate work is required to sustain this commitment. Argument is a central means of achieving deeper understanding and creating new knowledge. In this spirit, we engage one another and welcome campus speakers with viewpoints across the intellectual and political spectrum. We must protect a speaker’s right to be heard, just as we have a responsibility to challenge their ideas with honesty, vigor, and respect. No speaker is to be expected to present all views on a subject, but as a community, we offer the possibility of additional fora for exploration of contrasting opinions, so that taken together inquiry can proceed untrammeled in the service of scholarship.
It is our experience and expectation that members of our community will adhere to these principles in connection with events on campus. We will continue to respect the rights of protesters to express their views in a peaceful manner that does not prevent invited guests from speaking. However, should individuals violate these expectations and attempt to shut down the speech of others, we must take action to protect our fundamental values. This means escorting disruptive individuals out of events and pursuing appropriate disciplinary action in accordance with longstanding policies noted in the University’s Statutes and in the Student Manual.
There have been numerous instances where speakers have generated great debate about topics both personally challenging and intellectually difficult to segments of our community. And yet with few exceptions, we have held fast to our belief that these individuals have a right to speak on campus and, in so doing, help us sharpen our arguments and deepen our understanding. We underscore our obligation as a community to create appropriate ways to engage in debate and express dissent.