Press Releases | Freedom of Expression

ACTA Applauds the University of Chicago’s Bold Leadership on Academic Freedom

September 12, 2016

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni today praised the University of Chicago for its commitment to free speech and academic freedom. Chicago’s undergraduate Dean of Students Jay Ellison welcomed the Class of 2020 with the reminder that members of the University community must be prepared to engage with a variety of views and are also free to express their opinion without fear of censorship. He made clear that Chicago does not support practices that obstruct academic inquiry, such as “trigger warnings” and intellectual “safe spaces.” At a time when so many campuses are disinviting controversial speakers, Dean Ellison declared such behavior unacceptable at the University of Chicago. 

Dean Ellison’s letter follows the University of Chicago’s 2014 decision to adopt a model policy, now informally called the “Chicago Principles,” designed to protect and support freedom of speech on campus.

“The University of Chicago once again showed bold leadership by standing up for academic freedom and liberal education,” said Michael B. Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “Academic freedom has been an engine of progress in the United States, but it is in jeopardy at too many colleges and universities. The University of Chicago, accompanied by a few other leading institutions, blazed a trail. We hope that the rest of American higher education will have the wisdom and courage to follow.”

Since 2014, ACTA has encouraged its network of 22,000 trustees to make the same commitment to free speech and academic freedom at their schools. Purdue University led the way by becoming the first public university to adopt the Chicago Principles in 2015. Several other institutions, including Princeton University, Chapman University, the University of Wisconsin, American University, and Johns Hopkins University, have joined the University of Chicago in adopting these clear principles of free expression on campus.

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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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