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Brown University, Claremont McKenna College join U. Chicago in defending of free speech

Two universities have joined the University of Chicago in defending the importance of free speech and of students being exposed to different points of view.

As noted by Reason’s Robby Soave, Claremont McKenna College President Hiram Chodosh and Dean of the Faculty Peter Uvin write that “freedom of speech and diversity of opinion are ‘foundational'” at their school:

We teach sensitive material. We do not mandate trigger warnings. We invite controversial speakers. We accord these rights to our students as well, whether they agree or disagree with faculty, administrators, or one another. …

To benefit fully from the free exchange of challenging ideas, we must ensure that all people with different viewpoints, experiences, and analyses are included in our conversations. We protect the freedom of association as an individual and collective right. We reject exclusion and ad hominem attacks as barriers to learning. All of us—students, faculty, and staff—must commit to high standards of civility, respect, and appreciation for differences. All of us must value and support one another in challenging ourselves to analyze issues from many sides, to develop rigorous tools of intellectual inquiry, and to cultivate the habits of mind of an educated citizen.

Across the country at Brown University, Provost Richard Locke sent a campus-wide email yesterday with the subject heading “Reaffirming Values: Campus Dialogue and Discourse.” In it he says

Central to Brown University’s mission of serving the community, the nation, and the world is our commitment to “discovering, communicating, and preserving knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry.” In fulfillment of this mission, Brown seeks to ensure a vibrant and rigorous intellectual environment that advances knowledge through teaching, research and engagement across the disciplines, both inside and outside of the classroom. The ongoing quest to deepen our understanding of the world and to identify solutions to society’s most pressing problems demands intense and continuous inquiry, shaping ideas and refining approaches by inviting a range of perspectives and challenges. To these ends, active engagement through dialogue is critical to our progress as a University. …

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Conversations about serious issues are too often characterized as polarizing, and occur in a highly charged, rancorous atmosphere where speakers often anticipate being criticized, ridiculed or “called out.” Those who are uncertain or uncomfortable often remain silent or are reluctant to engage. We must work to empower all individuals to share their viewpoints, even if it makes some of us, at times, feel uncomfortable. Creating an environment in which productive dialogue occurs is essential for our University: It brings together people from across the political and social spectrums and from a range of experiences to share and engage a wide variety of views on the challenges facing our society. This is how we learn from one another and strengthen our community.

Included in the email was the schedule for Brown’s “Reaffirming University Values” project, which features the following lectures/discussions:

“A Note from the Margin: The Unsafe Spaces of Democracy” (October 6)
“Freedom of Speech in the University” (November 14)
“Free Speech and Civil Disobedience” (February 6)

In addition, there will be a weekly dinner series during the fall semester where “12-15 students active and engaged in advancing social justice” get together to “engag[e] in dialogue and shar[e] and listen to one another’s personal stories. ”

Read the full Claremont and Brown letters.

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