The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns freedom of inquiry and expression. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States declares: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech or of the press….” Amendment 1 was adopted on December 15, 1791, as the first of ten amendments constituting the Bill of Rights.
Yet, freedom of speech has been curtailed and even prevented on liberal university campuses across the United States because someone might feel uncomfortable by something someone else says. Spineless and/or liberal administrators at colleges have allowed liberal and progressive students to force rules curtailing the freedom of speech on their campuses and demanding “safe places” where they will not feel threatened by words.
Finally, a university stands up to the pressure. Jay Ellison, Dean of Students at the University of Chicago, sent a letter to the class of 2020 informing them that one of the university’s “defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression.” The letter warned incoming students to not expect “trigger warnings” or “safe spaces” on campus.
In its first paragraph the letter congratulates incoming freshmen on being accepted to the university and welcomes them to the campus. The second and following paragraphs informed students of the university’s stand on free speech.
“Once here you will discover that one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression…. Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.
“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called `trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual `safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”
You can find the entire letter at this site, and I hope you will read it. I find the letter to be very refreshing. I am grateful for those universities and other schools that refuse to curtail academic freedom because of pressure from liberals.
Students go to universities, colleges, and other schools to learn. How can they learn if they are censored in what they can speak, write, or hear? I enjoy hearing the viewpoints of other people because I know they come from different backgrounds and different experiences and can add to my knowledge. The more knowledge I gain, the better I am equipped to make informed decisions. The opposite is also true. If knowledge is withheld from me, I am less able to make good decisions.
Could this be the reason freedom of speech is curtailed on liberal campuses? Conservative principles work every time they are tried, and they bring more freedom with their policies. Liberal leaders must be afraid they will lose followers if their followers are allowed to hear conservative ideas! I applaud the University of Chicago in their commitment to academic freedom!