Recent incidents at the University of California-Berkeley where protesters threw Molotov cocktails and broke windows at the site of a sponsored lecture, and at Middlebury College where protesters assaulted a professor, highlight a disturbing trend in higher education: the assault on free expression.
This flouting of the norms of civil discourse and debate endangers the very heart of the university, for freedom of expression is essential to its mission and a fundamental constitutional right. Faculty recently demonstrated their commitment to open inquiry and to education, not indoctrination.
We encourage our students to speak freely and think critically. The citizens of Montana should applaud the University of Montana, where the Faculty Senate at its spring meeting overwhelmingly endorsed the University of Chicago’s statement on principles of free expression. The university thus joins 20 other institutions who have done so.
Let us all encourage others, especially our students, to cultivate the virtue of toleration and to respect the basic rights of all.