I am very proud of the University of Michigan for the strong statement in favor of free speech in university events sent out by the Provost Martha Pollack late last night. (Arguably, this policy has been on the books for a while, but this new statement is more powerful.) Here is the full text of the email (which can be considered public), other than the request at the top to forward it widely:
Each year, the University of Michigan is host to thousands of presentations, activities, performances, and exhibitions (“events”). Occasionally, some of these events may have to be cancelled, moved, or changed for legitimate reasons-but the expressive views associated with the events are not legitimate reasons.
Because the University is so deeply committed to principles of robust colloquy, free speech, and artistic expression, SPG 601.01 urges University constituents to resist pressure to curtail speech and expression because of how others will react to it:
It is inconsistent with full respect for freedom of speech and expression-though itself a form of protected speech-for members of the University community to exert pressure to revoke an invitation for a speaker to appear at the University because of the potential for a violent reaction to the speech, or the threat of disruption of the speech, and such pressure should be resisted. Likewise, refusal to invite an individual to speak solely because his or her presence may invite violence and disruption is contrary to the intellectual ideals of the University.
As a public institution, the University may only change events for viewpoint-neutral reasons. Such reasons include the inclement weather, the appropriateness of the venue (e.g., capacity, acoustics, etc.), unavailability of the speaker/artist, or the like. Such reasons do not include that the event will be controversial, provocative, inviting of protest, or the like.
Because the University is resolute in its adherence to law and to these principles, University units must contact an executive officer in their reporting line before cancelling, moving, or changing an event, if the decision is based on-or likely to be perceived as being based on-the content of speech or expression. Units may reach out to the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel to consult on legal issues associated with changes to events.
For contrast, see these other posts:
- Colleges Should Stand Up For Freedom of Speech!
- On Freedom of Political Speech
- Standing Firmly for Freedom of Speech within Mormonism
And for basic principles, see