University of Wisconsin System leaders approved a resolution Friday affirming free speech and academic freedom, joining colleges across the country that have officially proclaimed their devotion to free expression amid concerns academia is trying to protect students from being offended.
The resolution, adopted by a vote of 16-2, states that the university shouldn’t shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome or offensive.
“These are not just pretty words we are going to put in a brass plaque,” Regent Jose Delgado said. “The ability to speak in this country is a rational, academic way is under attack. You’ve got to be able to listen hard, even if it hurts.”
You can find the UW statement here, as part of a larger document. The key provision (their emphasis):
Accordingly, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents expresses its expectation that the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression will be upheld because today, as previously stated by Regents on September 18, 1894:
“Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”
The Chicago policy should be a model for universities everwhere, and has already been the basis for similar statements by Purdue, Princeton, and Johns Hopkins. Here’s law professor Geoff Stone, head of Chicago’s committee to draft the statement, talking about its origin and aims:
Stone, with a distinguished career in law and sweeping expertise on the First Amendment, would make a great Supreme Court justice. One can only hope that, if there’s a conservative vacancy and a Democratic President, that might happen. Here’s one of his talks on the present Court: