62% of Cornell students surveyed by FIRE report censoring themselves on campus.
Cornell University is struggling to protect free expression and intellectual diversity on campus. It placed 154th out of 203 colleges in FIRE’s most recent College Free Speech Rankings. The school has mandated that applicants for faculty positions write diversity statements that serve as ideological litmus tests. Faculty and students report that the university suffers from a monoculture that chills diversity of thought. This stifling environment is exacerbated by required DEI trainings and a bias response team.
Cornell does not meet the ACTA Gold Standard for Freedom of Expression™, but it could with your encouragement. Together, we can help our country’s best schools to nourish a culture of free expression on campus. By taking steps such as adding a program on free speech to student orientation, making intellectual diversity a stated goal in faculty hiring, and adopting a statement on free expression similar to the Chicago Principles, Cornell would improve education for its students and ensure its continuing reputation as a leader in scientific discovery and civic engagement.
“Freedom of expression means that, apart from some very narrow exceptions, none of us gets to tell anyone else, ‘This is what you’re allowed to say, and this is what you’re not.’ ”
Martha PollackPresident of Cornell University
Dear President Pollack,
We write as concerned members of the Cornell community. The mission of our great university is “to discover, preserve and disseminate knowledge, to educate the next generation of global citizens, and to promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the Cornell community.”
However, some recent moves to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) on campus are replacing free expression and the search for truth—which are themselves essential tools for advancing justice—with an ideological agenda. Students, staff, and professors who offer alternatives to the reigning orthodoxy on campus and object to mandatory DEI trainings that discourage free expression have been marginalized and met with hostility. Free expression and open inquiry, which are identified as core values at Cornell, now look like an afterthought.
We urge you to make Cornell a gold standard for free expression among American colleges and universities—a truly inclusive campus—by establishing principles and practices that will build and protect a culture of free speech, academic freedom, and intellectual diversity. Specifically, we call on you to:
1. Adopt an uncompromising statement on freedom of expression such as the Chicago Principles;
2. Establish institutional neutrality on political and social issues;
3. Make intellectual diversity a stated goal in hiring and admissions; and
4. Add a program on free expression to the new-student orientation.
You have the ability to foster a climate of free expression and intellectual diversity at Cornell. Heed our call, and help Cornell to be the model its founder envisioned, a school at the forefront of discovery, teaching, and learning through its unfettered pursuit of truth.
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