Supporters of “institutional neutrality” are hailing the senate’s resolution as a victory, and Columbia is just the latest institution where leaders have adopted the principle or discussed exercising caution in issuing public statements. For instance, Vanderbilt University’s website depicts “institutional neutrality” as one pillar upholding “free expression.” The University of Virginia formed a committee this week to consider whether and when the institution should make statements about current events. And last year, North Carolina enacted a law requiring public universities to “remain neutral … on the political controversies of the day.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression and two other groups this week penned an open letter calling on university trustees to adopt institutional neutrality. “In recent years, colleges and universities have increasingly weighed in on social and political issues,” the letter reads, in part. “This has led our institutions of higher education to become politicized and has created an untenable situation whereby they are expected to weigh in on all social and political issues.”
It’s unclear whether more campuses will heed the call. Steve McGuire, a fellow at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni who specializes in academic freedom and free-speech issues on campus, told The Chronicle that he hopes they do. “We’ve noticed especially in the last few months that there’s been increasing discussion around the principle of institutional neutrality,” he added.
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