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Help build a culture of free expression at Cornell!

62% of Cornell students surveyed by FIRE report censoring themselves on campus.

Hold Cornell to ACTA’s Gold Standard

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.

What is the Gold Standard?

  • Adopt the Chicago Principles on Freedom of Expression or a similarly strong statement.
  • Establish clear expectations regarding free expression in student, faculty, and staff handbooks and codes of conduct.
  • Include a free expression unit in new-student orientations.
  • Protect the diversity of political viewpoints by adopting an institutional neutrality policy such as the Kalven Committee Report.

  • Sponsor campus debates that model civil discourse.
  • Encourage establishment of student groups promoting free expression.
  • Protect the rights of invited speakers and listeners to engage with controversial ideas.
  • Establish and enforce consequences that deter disruption of sponsored speakers, events, and classes.
  • Encourage presidents, provosts, and deans to model respect for a broad range of viewpoints.
  • Guarantee that viewpoint diversity is reflected in student life policies and practices.
  • Support academic centers dedicated to free inquiry and intellectual diversity.
  • Make intellectual diversity a stated goal in faculty hiring, evaluation, and promotion.
  • Eliminate speech and IT policies that have a chilling effect on free expression.
  • Ensure that Title IX and other disciplinary procedures do not infringe on free expression.
  • Disband bias response teams.
  • Review student government policies to ensure viewpoint neutrality in student group recognition and funding.
  • Incorporate explicit policies of free expression in governance bylaws and other key institutional documents.
  • Include a commitment to free expression as a criterion for presidential searches and evaluations.
  • Require free expression and viewpoint diversity training for administrative staff.
  • Conduct regular evaluations of the state of free expression and intellectual diversity on campus.

“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 Pollack

President of Cornell University

Join the Movement!

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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