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Momentum for Free Speech in the Ivy League and Beyond

I’m writing this from the campus of Wayne State University, where I was invited to speak at a forum entitled, “Speech on Campus: Perspectives, Implications and Ethics.”  My colleague from UVA, Prof. Rachel Wahl of the School of Education and Human Development, and Dr. Fred Duong of the University of Toronto presented their research on the effects of polarization and how to bridge interests, perspectives, and emotions both in and out of the classroom.  It was a great conversation in front of a very diverse audience in downtown Detroit, at a college that has more undergrads than UVA does.

 

Which brings me to the Princetonians for Free Speech (PFS) newsletter I received while I was here today. It details what is going on with free speech in the Ivy League these days — and it dawned on me that the movement for more viewpoint diversity and free expression in higher education isn’t limited to elite universities in the Northeast. The pendulum is moving nationally.  Nevertheless, take a look at what’s going on in the Ivy League, according to PFS, as well as their recommendations for the latest articles and podcasts:

 

Faculty organizing at America’s elite private universities was in the news this month: In The Fight Over Academic Freedom, The New York Times reported on the rise of faculty groups to “counter the climate of self-censorship and fear that stifles open inquiry.”

 

Faculty for Yale was introduced on February 13, and so far has 128 named faculty signatories. This group believes that Yale “must rededicate itself to its fundamental mission: to preserve, produce and transmit knowledge.” Columbia Academic Freedom Council launched last month, to “re-articulate and re-assert the timeless and liberal purposes, values, practices, and traditions of a university….[challenges to which] left unchecked, will further erode societal trust in our universities as centers of teaching, learning, research, and innovation.”  In the aftermath of the drama surrounding Claudine Gay’s demise, Harvard’s faculty group, the Council on Academic Freedom, with over 150 named faculty members, this month released “The Freedoms of a University,” a statement of principles which it hopes will be adopted by Harvard. You can see more about the statement in the Harvard Crimson. Penn Forward’s  “A Vision for a New Future of the University of Pennsylvania” has a membership of over 1,900 that includes faculty, staff, students and alumni. The leader of the pack is, not surprisingly, the University of Chicago’s new permanent entity, the The Chicago Forum, whose most recent event, on February 27, was a discussion titled “Free Speech in a Time of War.”  And Dartmouth’s new Dartmouth Dialogues is especially notable for being spearheaded by its President, Sian Leah Beilock.

 

Which brings us to Princeton: To affirm Princeton’s commitment to the academic freedom of faculty and students, PFS sincerely hopes that Princeton’s leadership chooses to support this growing, inter-collegiate faculty movement by endorsing the Princeton Principles for a Campus Culture of Free Inquiry and by adopting the increasingly favored principle of institutional neutrality, known as the Kalven Report, which PFS reported on HERE.

 An encouraging albeit rare example of a Princeton faculty member utterly unafraid to speak, see “Universities are Making Us Dumber” by Sergiu Kleinerman, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Mathematics, published in Tablet Magazine on February 27, 2024.


 PFS Recommended Articles:


PFS Recommended Podcasts:

  • Larry Summers on What Went Wrong on Campus The Good Fight at Persuasion, with Yasha Mounk, February 24, 2024 (includes transcript)

  • Should Universities Adopt Institutional Neutrality? Heterodox Academy President John Tomasi in conversation with journalist Jamie Kalven, the son of the late Harry Kalven, author of University of Chicago’s Kalven Report, Heterodox Out Loud, February 14, 2024  

  • Economist Roland Fryer on Adversity, Race and Refusing to Conform The Free Press, Honestly podcast with Bari Weiss, February 13, 2024

 

If you’d like to subscribe to the Princetonians for Free Speech newsletter, click here — it’s usually a pretty good once-a-week read about what’s going on in free speech across higher education, not just in the Ivy League.

 

And if you’d like to endorse the UVA Statement on Free Expression and Free Inquiry — which, by the way, preceded much of what is going on these days — please visit us at Hoos for Free Speech. We’d love to have thousands of signatures in support of its principles from students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and friends of UVA.  Join us as we help students thrive by promoting open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, critical thinking, and intellectual humility on Grounds.  Go Hoos!

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