Let freedom be cherished that learning may flourish.

Chicago Principles Petition to the Board of Trustees

PETITION TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF DAVIDSON COLLEGE
THAT THE COLLEGE ADOPT THE CHICAGO PRINCIPLES OF FREE EXPRESSION

Responding to events nationwide in 2014 testing institutional commitments to free and open discourse, University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer appointed a University Committee charged with drafting a statement “articulating the University’s overarching commitment to free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation among all members of the University’s community.” The 3-page Chicago Principles of Free Expression (Attachment 1) that emerged has since been adopted by 83 universities around the country, with more being added each year. Among the adopters are the following: Princeton, Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Amherst, Columbia, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, Colgate, George Mason, Case Western, Boston, Brandeis, Smith. the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem State University, and Appalachian State (Attachment 2).

At the core of the Chicago Principles is the following declaration: "…the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission….the University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.”

(https://freeexpression.uchicago.edu/) 

Far beyond what is possible in a paragraph of Davidson’s constitution, the Chicago Principles statement lays out comprehensively the essentials of campus free speech, and the Principles are designed to be a way of putting a spotlight on free expression at a time when it is seriously challenged on so many American campuses (Attachment 3). In Davidson's case, we believe that public and genuine commitment to the Chicago Principles should be right up there with commitment to the Honor Code.

We the 160 undersigned alumni/ae therefore respectfully petition the Board of Trustees of Davidson College to adopt the Chicago Principles of Free Expression and instruct the President to ensure that they are inculcated in the institution’s culture and vigorously applied throughout the College campus.

 

July 23, 2021

 

George Lewis ‘22

Eli Minsky ‘22

Trent Turbyfill ‘22

Lindy Bustabad ‘21

David Dameron ‘21

Kelly Fitzgerald ‘21

Maya Pillai ‘21

Will Smith ‘21

Chloe Eater ‘20

José Hernández ‘20

Stefan Moskowitz ‘20

Alan Tutar ‘20

John Zhou ‘20

Grant Pecheck ‘19

Brooke Riley ‘19

Kenny Xu ‘19

Caroline Yarbrough ‘19

Andrew Becker ‘18

Michael Shanahan ‘18

Parker Conquest ‘17

Nick Ragsdale ‘17

Mark W. Gore ‘16

Ty Middlebrooks ‘15

Scott Patrick ‘15

William Hamilton ‘13

Ralph Spalding ‘13

William Logan Lewis ‘12

Oran Davis Oakey V ‘11

Andrew Johnson ‘08

Andrew Nielson ‘08

Heather Green Shureck ‘05

Virginia (Nimick) Elliott ‘04

Stephen Rebarchak ‘04

S. Brent Elliott ‘03

Elizabeth Elmore ‘03

Andrew W. Countryman ‘02

Katie Dickson ‘02

JD Lauramore ‘02

Erin McKinley ‘01

Adam Stockstill ‘01

Daniel Cowan ‘99

Matthew Nixon ‘99

Erin McKinley Ducharrme ‘97

Bill Hyder ‘96

J. Patrick Jopling III ‘94

Leonel Benoist ‘93

Daciana Iancu MD ‘93

Mark Johnson ‘93

Elaine Sharp ‘92

James Christopher Lee ‘91

Patrick Currie ‘90

Gordon Tanner ‘89

Richard Tankard ‘88

Kevin J. Bahr ‘86

Dean Graves ‘86

Pat Bryant ‘85

Jenna Buckner ‘85

John Driggers ‘85

Henry Mitchell ‘85

Gregory F. Murphy MD ‘85

Gardiner Roddey ‘85

Chuck Elyea ‘84

Scott Otto ‘84

Robert Spaugh ‘84

William Stroud ‘84

David West ‘84

Theodore Wright ‘84

Hall Barnett ‘83

Robert “Skip” Brown, Jr. ‘83

Robert H. Bowden III ‘82

Constance Buehler ‘82

Diane Odom Cooper ‘82

Philip Goodnow ‘82

Andre' Kennebrew ‘82

Knox Kerr ‘82

Warren Overbey ‘82

Nick Viest ‘82

Jeff Wright ‘82

Anne Guérard Coletta ‘81

Will Dubar ‘81

Ed Imbrogno ‘81

R. Scott Goodwin ‘80

Tim Bode ‘79

John Carlson ‘79

Jon Hart ‘79

Stephen Fraser Lewis MD ‘79

Richard Reynolds ‘79

Frank N. Woodward ‘79

Louis Abreu ‘78

Ken Bell ‘78

Jim Brock ‘78

Stan Brown ‘78

Kris Childress ‘78

Joe Craig ‘78

Bruce Kemp ‘78

Dorn McGrath ‘78

Rob Murray ‘78

Michael Peskosky ‘78

Tim Purcell ‘78

Paul Schleifer ‘78

Charlie Strange ‘78

Thom Young ‘78

Wayne M Cross ‘77

Michael Huggins MD ‘77

Robert Westmoreland ‘77

Rob Canning ‘76

Millard Dean ‘76

Ron Powell ‘76

Richard Stewart ‘76

Earl Hesterberg ‘75

Frank Folger ‘74

Richard Hendrix ‘74

Ross Manire ‘74

Steve Morris ‘74

John Webel’74

Tom Campen ‘73

Mark Deininger ‘73

John E. Taylor ‘73

Ronald Crockett ‘72

Jon Jewett ‘72

Lyman Parrigin ‘71

David Shepler ‘71

Richard A. Snipes ‘71

Jackson Steele ‘71

David Sweatt ‘70

Robert Shearer ‘78

Somers J. Price ‘72

Bill Bradley ‘69

Mark Reavis ‘69

Barry Bishop ‘68

T. Heyward Carter, Jr. ‘68

Daniel Gresham ‘68

Dobbin Callahan ‘67

Robert Cameron ‘67

Norman Cole ‘67

John I Faulkenberry ‘67

Drewry Morris ‘67

Chip Robertson ‘67

Barry St. Clair ‘67

Howard Bryant ‘66

Billy Clark MD ‘66

John Craig ‘66

Donald Davis ‘66

Samuel P. Jones ‘66

Jim McNab ‘66

Elliott Motley IV ‘66

Steve Simmons ‘66

William H. Skinner, Jr. ‘66

Stephen Smith ‘66

Bill Staples ‘66

Frank H. Fee, III ‘65

Luther Williams MD ‘64

Jim Perry ‘63

Bernard Swope ‘63

Russ Williams ‘63

F. Anderson Sherrill, Jr. ‘62

Len Richardson ‘61

Mike Wilson ‘61

Chris Bremer ‘60

Daniel Carroll ‘63

Bruce Van Sant ‘60

Don D. Reid ‘54

Cole Gaither ‘53

Richard M. Lilly ‘50

Bob Rapp ‘48

 

ATTACHMENT 1

University of Chicago Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression

The Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago was appointed in July 2014 by President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Eric D. Isaacs “in light of recent events nationwide that have tested institutional commitments to free and open discourse.” The Committee’s charge was to draft a statement “articulating the University’s overarching commitment to free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation among all members of the University’s community.”

The Committee has carefully reviewed the University’s history, examined events at other institutions, and consulted a broad range of individuals both inside and outside the University. This statement reflects the long-standing and distinctive values of the University of Chicago and affirms the importance of maintaining and, indeed, celebrating those values for the future.

From its very founding, the University of Chicago has dedicated itself to the preservation and celebration of the freedom of expression as an essential element of the University’s culture. In 1902, in his address marking the University’s decennial, President William Rainey Harper declared that “the principle of complete freedom of speech on all subjects has from the beginning been regarded as fundamental in the University of Chicago” and that “this principle can neither now nor at any future time be called in question.”

Thirty years later, a student organization invited William Z. Foster, the Communist Party’s candidate for President, to lecture on campus. This triggered a storm of protest from critics both on and off campus. To those who condemned the University for allowing the event, President Robert M. Hutchins responded that “our students . . . should have freedom to discuss any problem that presents itself.” He insisted that the “cure” for ideas we oppose “lies through open discussion rather than through inhibition.” On a later occasion, Hutchins added that “free inquiry is indispensable to the good life, that universities exist for the sake of such inquiry, [and] that without it they cease to be universities.”

In 1968, at another time of great turmoil in universities, President Edward H. Levi, in his inaugural address, celebrated “those virtues which from the beginning and until now have characterized our institution.” Central to the values of the University of Chicago, Levi explained, is a profound commitment to “freedom of inquiry.” This freedom, he proclaimed, “is our inheritance.”

More recently, President Hanna Holborn Gray observed that “education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think. Universities should be expected to provide the conditions within which hard thought, and therefore strong disagreement, independent judgment, and the questioning of stubborn assumptions, can flourish in an environment of the greatest freedom.”

The words of Harper, Hutchins, Levi, and Gray capture both the spirit and the promise of the University of Chicago. Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of the University, the University of Chicago fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the University community “to discuss any problem that presents itself.”

Of course, the ideas of different members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.

The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. The University may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the University. In addition, the University may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the University. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the University’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.

In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on      those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission.

As a corollary to the University’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of the University community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of the University community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, the University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.

As Robert M. Hutchins observed, without a vibrant commitment to free and open inquiry, a university ceases to be a university. The University of Chicago’s long-standing commitment to this principle lies at the very core of our University’s greatness. That is our inheritance, and it is our promise to the future.

 

Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law,

Chair

Marianne Bertrand, Chris P. Dialynas Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, Booth School of Business

Angela Olinto, Homer J. Livingston Professor, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Enrico Fermi Institute, and the College

Mark Siegler, Lindy Bergman Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Surgery

David A. Strauss, Gerald Ratner Distinguished Service Professor of Law

Kenneth W. Warren, Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor, Department of English and the College

Amanda Woodward, William S. Gray Professor, Department of Psychology and the College

Attachment 2

Chicago Principles Statement: University and Faculty Body Support

by FIRE June 15, 2021

The following institutions or faculty bodies have adopted or endorsed the Chicago Statement or a substantially similar statement.

  1. Princeton University: Officially Adopted in April 2015.* 
  2. Purdue University System: Affirmed by the Board of Trustees in May 2015.
  3. Johns Hopkins University: Officially Adopted in September 2015.
  4. American University: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in September 2015.
  5. Chapman University: Officially Adopted in September 2015.
  6. Winston-Salem State University: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in September 2015.
  7. Michigan State University: Officially Adopted in October 2015.
  8. University of Virginia College at Wise: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in November 2015.
  9. University of Wisconsin System: Affirmed by Board of Regents in December 2015.
  10. Washington and Lee University: Officially Adopted in December 2015.*
  11. University of Minnesota: Affirmed by Faculty Body in March 2016.
  12. City University of New York: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in March 2016.
  13. Denison University: Officially Adopted in April 2016.*
  14. Claremont McKenna College: Officially Adopted in May 2016.*
  15. Amherst College: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in May 2016.
  16. University of Missouri System: Officially Adopted in Spring 2016.*
  17. The Citadel: Officially Adopted in June 2016.
  18. University of Southern Indiana: Officially Adopted in August 2016.
  19. Vanderbilt University: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in August 2016.
  20. Washington University in St. Louis: Officially Adopted in September 2016.*
  21. Columbia University: Officially Adopted in September 2016.*
  22. Northern Illinois University: Officially Adopted in October 2016.
  23. Eckerd College: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in Fall 2016.
  24. Franklin & Marshall College: Officially Adopted in February 2017.*
  25. Appalachian State University: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in February 2017.
  26. University of Maine System: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in March 2017.
  27. University of Montana: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in May 2017.
  28. University of Denver: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in May 2017.
  29. Kenyon College: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in Spring 2017.
  30. Georgetown University: Officially Adopted in June 2017.
  31. State University of New York- University at Buffalo: Officially Adopted in August 2017.
  32. Ashland University: Officially Adopted in October 2017.*
  33. California State University Channel Islands: Officially Adopted in October 2017.
  34. University of Nebraska System: Affirmed by Board of Regents in January 2018.
  35. Middle Tennessee State University: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in January 2018.
  36. Tennessee Technological University: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in January 2018.
  37. Smith College: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in February 2018.
  38. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill: Affirmed by Faculty Council in April 2018.
  39. Ohio Wesleyan University: Officially Adopted in April 2018.*
  40. Joliet Junior College: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in April 2018.
  41. Southern Utah University: Officially Adopted in May 2018.
  42. University of Arkansas at Little Rock: Officially Adopted in May 2018.*
  43. Gettysburg College: Affirmed by Board of Regents in May 2018.*
  44. Ranger College: Affirmed by Board of Regents in May 2018.
  45. University of Maryland: Officially Adopted in May 2018.*
  46. Utica College: Officially Adopted in May 2018.*
  47. Kettering University: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in June 2018.
  48. Ohio University: Officially Adopted in July 2018.*
  49. Suffolk University: Officially Adopted in July 2018.
  50. Arizona State University: Officially Adopted in August 2018.
  51. University of Colorado System: Affirmed by Board of Regents in September 2018.
  52. Colgate University: Officially Adopted in October 2018.*
  53. Brandeis University: Officially Adopted in October 2018.*
  54. University of Louisiana System: Officially Adopted in October 2018.
  55. Christopher Newport University: Officially Adopted in November 2018.
  56. George Mason University: Officially Adopted in November 2018.
  57. Louisiana State University System: Officially Adopted in November 2018.*
  58. South Dakota University System: Affirmed by Board of Regents in December 2018.
  59. University of Arizona: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in December 2018.
  60. Stetson University: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in February 2019.*
  61. University of Texas at San Antonio: Officially Adopted in February 2019.
  62. Clark University: Officially Adopted in February 2019.
  63. Nevada System of Higher Education: Affirmed by Board of Regents in March 2019.
  64. Cleveland State University: Officially Adopted in March 2019.*
  65. State University System of Florida: Affirmed by Board of Governors in April 2019.*
  66. Board of Regents, State of Iowa: Affirmed by Board of Regents in April 2019.*
  67. University of Toledo: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in April 2019.
  68. Miami University: Officially Adopted in July 2019.*
  69. Adrian College: Affirmed by Faculty Body in September 2019.
  70. Case Western Reserve University: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in November 2019.
  71. Ball State University: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in January 2020.
  72. Southern Methodist University: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in February 2020.
  73. Snow College: Affirmed by Faculty Senate in April 2020.
  74. University of Alabama System: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in June 2020.
  75. Jacksonville State University: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in June 2020.
  76. Colorado Mesa University: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in August 2020.
  77. Winthrop University: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in August 2020.
  78. Jones County Junior College: Officially Adopted in August 2020.
  79. Boston University: Affirmed by Board of Trustees in October 2020.*
  80. University of Richmond: Official Adoption in December 2020.*
  81. Kansas Board of Regents: Affirmed by Board of Regents in March 2021.
  82. University of Virginia: Affirmed by Board of Visitors in June 2021.*

*Indicates that multiple campus stakeholders approved this statement.