The Purdue policy states, “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.” Nearly identical language appears in the Chicago version.
“We looked at it, our trustees looked at it. We said, you know, this says exactly what needs to be said. We’re going to protect all kinds of speech, including the kind we think is ridiculous and completely wrong, and we’re going to insist everybody else respect — at least on our campus — people’s right to be heard,” Daniels said.
. . . Asked how he would respond if students attempted to un-invite a speaker at Purdue, Daniels answered, “I would politely tell them, ‘Thank you for your advice, but no, we’re not that kind of place.'”
You might want to read the University of Chicago’s “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression“, as it’s only a bit over two pages long and is quite eloquent. I was dimly aware that they were forging such a policy here, but didn’t realize that had actually produced a document. But they did, in January. The Committee was chaired by the estimable law school professor Geoff Stone, who I always thought would make a great Supreme Court justice (sadly, Congress is not in the mood for a liberal). And here are a few excerpts, which make me proud of my school.
The report first lays out the history of free speech at the U of C, quoting a number of University presidents who endorsed it, e.g.:
More recently, President Hanna Holborn Gray observed that “education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think. Universities should be expected to provide the conditions within which hard thought, and therefore strong disagreement, independent judgment, and the questioning of stubborn assumptions, can flourish in an environment of the greatest freedom.”
And then the heart of the document:
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.
And here’s the sting in the tail:
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.
Do you hear that, Brandeis, Stanford, UCLA, The University of Maryland, the University of Michigan, and all the rest of you pusillanimous schools?