Greg Lukianoff of FIRE outlines how colleges should commit to freedom of speech

Here’s a short video of Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), outlining five actions people can take to ensure free speech on college campuses. These are, he says, things that people should demand of all college presidents.  I’ll give a short list of What Is To Be Done, but watch the video:

1.) Stop violating the law if you’re a public university with speech codes that abrogate the First Amendment. There should in fact be no speech codes in colleges beyond those affirming the principles and exceptions of the First Amendment.

2.) Ask the university to reaffirm its commitment to freedom of speech, academic freedom, and freedom of inquiry.  The University of Chicago has led the way in this with its Chicago Principles, though various recent ideological statements by administrators and departments threaten to erode the freedoms of speech and inquiry by creating a chilling effect, one in which University members are implicitly urged to adopt a stance of ideological conformity.

3.) “Defend the free speech rights of your students and faculty loudly, clearly, and early.” This happened here when the students, faculty, and alumni asked for Steve Bannon’s invitation to speak to be withdrawn. The university merely made this statement:

“Professor Luigi Zingales of the Booth School of Business is planning an event with the tentative format of a debate on subjects including the economic benefits of globalization and immigration, and has invited Steve Bannon, former chief strategist and senior adviser in the Trump administration, to debate an expert in the field, with Zingales serving as moderator. More details will be available soon from the Booth School of Business.

“The University of Chicago is deeply committed to upholding the values of academic freedom, the free expression of ideas, and the ability of faculty and students to invite the speakers of their choice.

“Any recognized student group, faculty group, University department or individual faculty member can invite a speaker to campus. We recognize that there will be debate and disagreement over this event; as part of our commitment to free expression, the University supports the ability of protesters and invited speakers to express a wide range of views.”

Now isn’t that great? (Bannon didn’t come, by the way.)

4.) “Teach free speech from Day One.” Every school should, says Lukianoff, have orientation sessions for incoming students to instruct them in the principles, philosophy, and meaning of free speech. I’ve long suggested this. These are not the usual sessions on “hate speech,” but a discussion of the principles of the First Amendment and why they’re important. (There could, for instance, be readings by John Stuart Mill or the viewing of Hitchens’s excellent “free speech” video.)

5.) “Be scholars; collect data.” By this Lukianoff means polling the faculty and students to find out what the climate for free speech is. That will determine what reforms need to be effected. Note that FIRE is willing to help any college that asks to formulate a free-speech policy.



  1. jezgrove
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Lukianoff’s video is brief and to the point. It’s just a shame that it needs saying.

  2. DrBrydon
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Would that student rights were attended to as much as student diversity.

  3. Jody Hey
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Lukianoff is wonderful. He does the FIRE podcast (“So To “Speak”) and is masterful in both his knowledge of the subject matter and is handling of guests.

  4. Keith
    Posted August 3, 2020 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for recommending both of these videos. Time well spent! It is such a delight to listen to Hitchens, as he speaks so clearly and lucidly.

  5. phoffman56
    Posted August 4, 2020 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    “Note that FIRE is willing to help any college that asks to formulate a free-speech policy.”

    Good. But what kind of a college is it that is so threadbare of thinkers that it needs this help?

    Surely they have at least one person who knows the difference between a sentence and a non-sentence. And someone who can read the sentences of your Constitution and understand what it says. And actually write down a sentence that their own brain created; and divide a sequence of them into readable paragraphs. Etc…

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