Not long ago, I mentioned that the University of Chicago’s Statement on Free Expression had been adapted into a model statement by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. It seems that such statements are needed now more than ever, and in that spirit, I recently proposed the model statement to my institution’s Faculty Council, with an eye toward presenting it to the full faculty. I proposed it not as a binding measure — there are existing statements on academic freedom in our faculty documents, and any expansions of that sort would have to be approved by the school’s Board of Trustees — nor in response to any attempts at restraint here at the college. In fact, I have never believed myself to be silenced here in Mondoville, as anyone who has had lunch with me in the college cafeteria can attest.
Nonetheless, I believe we are seeing an increasingly chilly climate for expression in America’s colleges and universities, and a corresponding rise in mobs of overgrown toddlers spouting nonsense like, “[A Yale faculty member] needs to stop instigating more debate.” Of course, that’s precisely the opposite of intellectual growth, but someone’s feelings may be bruised, so offenders must be shouted down or otherwise silenced. (And if not saying anything offends someone, well, let’s get rid of those folks too!) I despise mobs. Consequently, I think it would be a good idea for the faculty of which I’m a member to reaffirm a commitment to free expression, even if that affirmation is symbolic and non-binding. Hence, my submission of the statement to the faculty council. As I told my colleagues there, I think of this action as prophylactic in nature — and perhaps a step toward extending the freedom we faculty enjoy to the larger campus community.
Well, I’m pleased to report that the council voted to forward the statement for consideration to the full faculty. More as it happens, but I’m glad we’ve moved this far.