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Florida’s Eckerd College follows University of Chicago’s lead with free-speech statement

Eckerd College only has 1,800 students, but it doesn’t want them to experience the offense-driven upheaval that has plagued the University of Missouri, Wesleyan and other schools in the past year.

That’s why its faculty “unanimously” adopted a version of the University of Chicago’s sweeping free-speech statement at their last meeting of the academic year, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Though it hasn’t yet released the statement, the Florida school plans to send it to students “in the coming weeks”:

It is not a policy, and it doesn’t have penalties. It draws a line at hate speech and harassment. But it makes clear that the college won’t disinvite controversial speakers or obstruct protests, encouraging students to engage rather than flee from difficult discussions.

“College should challenge the set of beliefs you arrive with,” said Eckerd’s dean of faculty, Suzan Harrison. “That’s part of the point of college, to expose you to new ideas, some of which will make you uncomfortable.”

Student government is on board, too:

“A statement like this is really just a reaffirmation of the norms students have come to expect,” said Claire Russell, Eckerd student government’s vice president for academic affairs.

“I definitely support the needs of my fellow students, but I do also think that a lot of these topics can aid in better conversation and a deeper understanding,” Russell said. “When those topics are shut down or completely eliminated from the classroom, then students don’t get to have those conversations.”

Jack Layden, student body president, said the statement is just “preaching to the choir.”

One of the situations in which administrators promise not to intervene is – you guessed it – clowns:

Harrison described [a situation] in which an Eckerd student visiting a circus-themed display in the library saw photographs of clowns. Horrified, the student told administrators they should have been warned.

h/t Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

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