Info & resources
We will be gathering information and resources for free speech campaigners here. Please email us with ideas and suggestions.
First, the Chicago Principles
The University of Chicago was an early leader in recognising the problem and endeavouring to address it. We set out below a substantial proportion of the “Chicago Principles” which it adopted in 2015. These remain an inspiring example of how universities should approach free speech – although they need to give them proper effect too!
“Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of the University, the University of Chicago fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the University community to discuss any problem that presents itself.
Of course, the ideas of different members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But 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. 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 some members of our community.
The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. The University may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the University. In addition, 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. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the University’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.
In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission.
As a corollary to the University’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of the University community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of the University community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. 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.”
Other free speech organisations
The more free speech campaigns – and organisations providing relevant information – you are aware of and join and support, the better: it will amplify their voices. Here are some key allies in the struggle for free speech at universities.
Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF) are a campaigning group for all lecturers, academic-related staff, students and researchers who want to defend unimpeded enquiry and expression.
Surveys on the problem
Policy Exchange: Academic freedom in the UK, 2020.
Legatum Institute: Is Academic freedom Under Threat?, 2022.
A Survation poll for ADF International in 2019 reported that amongst other things: 1 in 4 students don’t share their true opinions because they clash with those promoted by their university; 44% of students fear that lecturers will treat them differently if they express their true opinions on important issues; and more than one third of students feel their careers would be adversely affected if they express their views about some issues important to them. See more here https://www.protectfreespeech.uk/national-poll/
Quotes: the good, bad and ugly
For a bit of fun and interest, have a look at our Quotes: good, bad and ugly page