ACTA in the News | Free Speech

Free speech hangs in the balance at UT Austin

Colleges have been drifting away from free expression. Here’s how the University of Texas can course correct.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS   |  October 8, 2022 by Michael B. Poliakoff and Steven McGuire

“Like many American colleges and universities, the University of Texas at Austin is struggling to build a culture of free expression on campus.

Free expression is the lifeblood of a university. It is essential to the discovery of truth, the pursuit of innovation and preparation for citizenship in a democratic society. If a university is to serve its purpose, it must take steps to ensure that faculty and students know they are free to test ideas and explore new lines of inquiry without fear of censure, retaliation or “cancellation.”

Too many colleges and universities today are abandoning their commitments to free expression. Professors and students are encouraged to report one another to bias response teams. Campus speakers are shouted down or disinvited. The climate on many campuses is characterized by fear and mistrust.

The direction UT Austin will take hangs in the balance, with a spate of recent events giving cause for concern…”

“In a 2020 op-ed, UT President Jay Hartzell defended free expression, writing, “The only way to figure out what is true, valuable and morally right is through thought and discussion. Freedom of speech is the path, not the problem. And it is vital that our institutions of higher learning understand that and make it known to all those whom we serve. It is only through discourse that we can truly move forward and make breakthroughs.”

And there are faculty, like those who started and now run the Civitas Institute, who are fighting for a UT that gives students an education that will prepare them for life, career, and citizenship.

So how does UT lead the way? It should (1) adopt the Chicago Principles; (2) commit itself to institutional neutrality on political issues, as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill just did; (3) prioritize intellectual diversity in hiring and admissions; and (4) communicate to students during orientation and throughout their time at UT that free expression and viewpoint diversity are foundational principles of the institution…”

To read the full article, visit the Dallas Morning News here. (Subscription is required.)


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