Press Releases | Freedom of Expression

ACTA Defends University of New Mexico Professor

Controversial Comment on Terrorist Attack is Not Grounds for Punishment
November 14, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni today came to the defense of University of New Mexico professor Richard Berthold who is under investigation by the University for remarking: “Anyone who can blow up the Pentagon has my vote.”

“Professor Berthold’s comment is certainly crude and debatable, but it is not punishable,” said Anne D. Neal, ACTA’s Vice President and General Counsel. “While we clearly disagree, academic freedom requires a free exchange of ideas—no matter how controversial.”

ACTA’s support comes in the wake of their report: Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What We Can Do About It, in which Mr. Berthold is quoted making the remark. The report notes the shocking divide between public and faculty opinion and calls on colleges and universities to offer students varying viewpoints and an atmosphere of free exchange.

“There is a big difference between criticizing someone’s comments, and punishing those comments,” said Neal. “It is the responsibility of a university to teach that the right way to counter ideas with which one disagrees is with more speech, not less,” said Neal.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is an educational nonprofit dedicated to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability. It was founded by Lynne V. Cheney and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT).


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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