Press Releases | Institutional Neutrality

ACTA Launches Next Phase in Its Campus Freedom Initiative™, Urges Institutional Neutrality on American College Campuses

February 15, 2024

February 15, 2024—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) today opened a new front in its Campus Freedom Initiative™ by launching a nationwide campaign urging American colleges and universities to adopt and enforce policies of strict institutional neutrality. ACTA’s call for institutional neutrality is part of our efforts to encourage colleges and universities to adhere to the ACTA Gold Standard for Freedom of Expression™, a 20-step blueprint for creating a healthier, more intellectually diverse free speech culture on American campuses.

The responses of many colleges and universities to the October 7, 2023, Hamas massacre reflected hypocrisy, as well as intellectual and moral bankruptcy, culminating in the disastrous appearance of three elite college presidents before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, giving statements devoid of both procedural coherence and basic humanity. The crisis has catalyzed a movement among American universities to reset their policies and remain officially neutral on social and political events unless they directly affect the institution’s mission or operations.

“Political tensions are inevitable on college and university campuses,” said Steven McGuire, ACTA’s Paul & Karen Levy Fellow in Campus Freedom. “Who can imagine a genuine place of learning, free inquiry, boundary-pushing, and intellectual growth that does not also invite robust debate, discussion, and sometimes even discord? But in recent years, colleges and universities have abandoned their roles as impartial incubators of debate and inserted themselves into the fray, acting and speaking for the university at large on matters on which there is no campus consensus. ACTA is urging higher education leaders to resist the temptation to impose their views on their communities and instead promote free and open debate and inquiry by adopting and enforcing robust principles of institutional neutrality.”

In addition to launching a web page dedicated to promoting institutional neutrality policies and tracking schools that have adopted or affirmed them, ACTA has leveraged its longstanding relationships with 23,000 higher education trustees to share information on institutional neutrality via mailings and emails. Trustee training and webinars will follow throughout 2024. Dr. McGuire will host Tony Banout, the inaugural executive director of the University of Chicago Forum for Free Inquiry and Expression, and Tom Ginsburg, Leo Spitz Professor of International Law at the University of Chicago, on ACTA’s podcast Higher Ed Now. The episode will be dedicated to the issue of institutional neutrality and will be released on February 22, 2024.Drs. Banout and Ginsburgare co-editors of a volume entitled The Chicago Canon on Free Inquiry and Expression, available for pre-order in March, which features the University of Chicago’s seminal documents articulating the principles of freedom of expression and institutional neutrality. These documents, developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, now form the intellectual foundation of the campus free expression movement. 

One of the two documents is the University of Chicago’s 1967 Kalven Report, which explains the vital role of institutional neutrality in protecting the vibrant exchange of ideas that is the lifeblood of higher education. Colleges and universities that adopt institutional neutrality empower students and faculty to form and express their opinions on contemporary social and political issues fearlessly, without being stifled by an official policy or the personal beliefs of the university administration.

ACTA President Michael Poliakoff stated, “Too many college leaders are too quick to make political pronouncements, taking it upon themselves to speak for every member of the college community. But their sacred duty is ultimately pedagogy not punditry. By scrupulously following the guidance of the Kalven Report, they will do much to restore the intellectual diversity essential for higher education.”  

MEDIA CONTACT: Gabrielle Anglin
PHONE: (202) 798-5425


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.

Discover More