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Princeton University Takes a Stand for Free Speech on Campus

07-01-2018

Colleges and universities across the country used to be thought of as places of free thought and free speech.

However, the news about the state of free speech on college campuses has been depressing over the last several years as ideas have been muzzled and speech literally gagged. 

But leave it to an Ivy League school to show other colleges the way, thanks in part to a new book promoting free speech by Princeton University political scientist Keith Whittington and the support and campus-wide promotion of the book by Princeton's president Chris Eisgruber.

According to the website Minding The Campus, this latest news comes on the heels of several other positive signs of free speech at Princeton.

Back in April of 2015, Princeton's faculty board adopted the main body of what has come to be known as the Chicago Principles of free speech and free expression. 

Originally drawn up by a committee of the University of Chicago chaired by law professor Geoffrey R. Stone, these principles condemned the suppression of views no matter how "offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed they may appear by some or even by most members of the University community," as reported by Minding The Campus

Here is part of the statement adopted at the 2015 faculty meeting, according to the website.

"Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to members of our community. … 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," the statement reads. 

It should be noted, the statement adopted by the Princeton faculty was for "the individual members of the university community themselves, and not for the university as a collective institution, the faculty statement declared, to make judgments as to whether particular speech is immoral, unwise or wrong-headed," according to Minding the Campus

The website also reports that this spring, the university reinforced the ideals behind the 2015 statement by adopting Whittington's book Speak Freely as a pre-read sent free to all incoming first-year students. They will be expected to discuss it when they arrive at the university this fall. 

Whittington's book identifies the obligations of institutions of higher learning to protect free speech and free expression against those who would obstruct or prohibit it.

The website also points to Princeton's Eisgruber, Geoffrey Stone and Purdue University president Mitch Daniels "in assuming national leadership in a movement to reaffirm the commitment of American institutions of higher learning to the highest ideals of free discussion, open debate, and the civilized exchange of conflicting viewpoints."

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