Press Releases | Freedom of Expression

ACTA to Swarthmore Trustees: “Academic Freedom and the Free Exchange of Ideas are at Stake”

Student disruption at board meeting sets a dangerous precedent
June 28, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) is calling on the trustees of Swarthmore College to protect academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas after students angry about the school’s investment policies hijacked a board meeting in May and silenced dissenting opinions with yells, clapping and tirades.

As trustees and President Rebecca Chopp sat silent, “students pressed their demands on university leaders in thoughtless ways, drowning out students who wanted to voice other perspectives, and shutting down a reasoned discussion of the university’s investment policies,” according to the letter sent to trustees. 

“This is not the open, constructive and vibrant exchange of ideas that Americans expect at colleges and universities,” said Anne D. Neal, ACTA president. “While these students have the right to express their opinions—and indeed they should—they don’t have the right to use coercive tactics that drown out other perspectives and show total disregard for a reasoned discussion.”

The letter calls on trustees and the college president to make clear that students who “use force or intimidation to disrupt the free exchange of ideas” will be held accountable and encourages the board to affirm its commitment to institutional neutrality.

The letter references a report recently issued by ACTA on the critical topic of academic freedom, “Free to Teach, Free to Learn.” The report highlights key documents, coupled with commentary from higher education leaders, to examine the dangerous decline of academic freedom and intellectual diversity on college campuses.

Read the full letter here.


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