ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.
I congratulate University of Northern Colorado President Kay Norton for using the platform of her State of the University address to reaffirm the school’s commitment to free expression and academic freedom. Her remarks come at a time when too many universities have restricted free expression, often enforcing speech codes that stifle the debate and discussion on which education thrives.
UNC itself drew fire this summer for its Bias Response Team, or BRT, which was on a dangerous path of restricting the freedom of faculty to explore challenging topics and the freedom of students to explore, rather than avoid, the controversies of the day. Such policies run counter to the goals of liberal education.
Empowering BRTs to censor does students a grave disservice by insulating them from views that differ from their own. It renders them ill-prepared for the give-and-take of a free society.
By eliminating UNC’s BRT, President Norton and other campus leaders are moving in the right direction. As they think about how to make good on their stated support for free expression, they have an opportunity to blaze a new trail. To do so, they can look to the University of Chicago, which has shown bold leadership in defending the rights of its students and faculty to engage with a variety of views and to express their opinions freely without fear of censorship or reprisal. Other fine institutions have joined the University of Chicago in adopting these clear principles of free expression.
America’s system of higher education is its engine of progress, in no small part, because of its ability to foster open discourse and learning, to challenge orthodoxies in pursuit of truth. UNC’s president has set it on the right course: It now needs to ensure that academic freedom and freedom of expression remain UNC’s inviolable principles.