Key Points
  • Part of the role of colleges and universities is to introduce students to ideas, concepts, and values they may object to or even be offended by.
  • Free expression on college and university campuses is particularly important for fostering a true marketplace of ideas, where students can be exposed to a variety of ideas and learn tolerance for those ideas with which they disagree.
  • Speech on college and university campuses has been chilled by increasing regulations that are not viewpoint neutral.
  • Without freedom of speech, students and professors will fear reprisal for expressing controversial views.
  • Students that are protected from words, ideas and people that challenge them will be ill-prepared to enter the workplace.

Freedom of speech and inquiry are crucial in higher education. Universities exist to educate students and pursue knowledge. As a “marketplace of ideas,” the university offers a forum for ideas to compete. This intellectual competition produces a level of academic rigor that is impossible to produce without freedom of speech for both students and professors.

Campus intellectual vitality is killed if students and professors at public universities fear reprisal for expressing unpopular or controversial views. Consequently, it is necessary to promote and develop policy that protects the freedom of speech of both students and faculty.

Professors also need protection as they pursue research that may be unpopular or controversial. A common intimidation tactic of political activists is to submit Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests for professors’ private correspondence. They then use or publish the emails in a way that creates a personal animus against the professors. Professors pursue educational initiatives on a variety of topics through the sponsorship of charitable foundations. The political activists want to “expose” professors’ connection to these charitable foundations. The result is a chilling effect on the freedom of inquiry of professors as they become guarded in exploring all possible ideas, regardless of their popularity and funding sources dry up due to potential publicity.

Publications

  • 2016-erc-cover-thumb

    21st Report Card on American Education

    The future of the American education system has the potential to be bright. In forward-thinking states like Arizona, the state …
+ All Academic Freedom Publications

Model Policies

  • Campus Anti-Harassment Act Final

    General Description This bill enacts provisions related to harassment at an institution of higher education. Highlighted Provisions This bill: defines terms; enacts requirements related to how an institution of higher education addresses discriminatory harassment; prohibits an institution of higher education from punishing certain acts of speech that do not constitute …

Task Forces

Education and Workforce Development

The mission of the ALEC Education and Workforce Development Task Force is to promote excellence in the nation’s educational system, …