Washington, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) applauds the formation of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA), a new and important voice in defense of free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity on college and university campuses.
Journalist, author, and ACTA Board Member Stuart Taylor, Jr., along with Edward Yingling, his fellow co-founder of Princetonians for Free Speech and former president and CEO of the American Bankers Association, announced the new effort in an opinion piece, “Alumni Unite for Freedom of Speech,” published in the Wall Street Journal on October 17. AFSA is a consortium of five like-minded alumni groups: the Cornell Free Speech Alliance, Davidsonians for Freedom of Thought and Discourse, Princetonians for Free Speech, the Jefferson Council (comprised of alumni from the University of Virginia), and the Generals Redoubt (graduates of Washington and Lee University). These alumni have watched with alarm as their beloved institutions have become environments of illiberalism, intolerance, and fear.
As Mr. Taylor and Mr. Yingling wrote, “alumni have the ability and duty to demand that their schools maintain the reasons for which they were created.”
The founding members of AFSA recognize that alumni voices may be the only force that can have a meaningful impact on institutional governance and that alumni must leverage this force now, as they see affronts to free speech proliferate. AFSA’s founders anticipate an expansion of AFSA’s membership, and the organization provides mentoring and resources to help other alumni organize to protect free expression at their own alma maters.
ACTA President Michael Poliakoff insists that alumni must not simply be viewed as sources of revenue, but they are, unfortunately, often treated that way. “Alumni understand profoundly what their education has meant to them, and in their love for their institutions, their values and vision are every bit as essential as their checkbooks,” stated Dr. Poliakoff. “Higher education is in crisis: At some institutions, the erosion of freedom of speech and the degradation of the curriculum puts them into a moral freefall. The voices of alumni who remember better campus values and higher academic standards are urgently needed for a long-overdue course correction.”
“It is so encouraging to see the formation of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance. Alumni are perhaps the last best hope to restore a culture of free expression on college campuses today. Until now, however, few alumni understood the depth of the problem at their alma mater. By drawing attention to the issue, groups like AFSA empower alumni to advocate for change,” said Emily Koons Jae, director of ACTA’s Fund for Academic Renewal.
Fortified with a 26-year history of defending freedom of expression on college campuses, ACTA looks forward to partnering with AFSA and its individual alumni group members to reverse these troubling trends. ACTA continues to urge college administrators and trustees to be proactive in guarding campus free speech, starting with the adoption and enforcement of the Chicago Principles on Freedom of Expression.
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