FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION RESOLUTION
Adopted November 2015 and based on the University of Chicago Statement
“Academic freedom and a robust commitment to freedom of expression are not merely good ideas; they are the heart and soul of a university,” said Geoffrey Stone, professor of law at the University of Chicago. “A university that is not fully committed to those values has no right to call itself a university.” In that light, The Art & Law Program believes that an artist residency that is not fully committed to freedom of expression has no right to call itself an artist residency.
The Art & Law Program fully believes in freedom of speech and in protecting that freedom when others attempt to restrict it. To that end – and in response to the recent and ongoing debates concerning freedom of expression within educational settings – The Art & Law Program has adopted the following resolution.
Because The Art & Law Program is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of The Art & Law Program community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of The Art & Law Program, The Art & Law Program fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of The Art & Law Program community “to discuss any problem that presents itself.”
Of course, the ideas of different members of The Art & Law Program community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of The Art & Law Program to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although The Art & Law Program greatly values civility, and although all members of The Art & Law Program community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.
The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. The Art & Law Program may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of The Art & Law Program. In addition, The Art & Law Program may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of The Art & Law Program. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with The Art & Law Program’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.
In a word, The Art & Law Program’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of The Art & Law Program community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the Art & Law Program community, not for The Art & Law Program as an entity, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose in a courteous manner. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of The Art & Law Program community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of The Art & Law Program’s educational mission.
As a corollary to The Art & Law Program’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of The Art & Law Program community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of The Art & Law Program community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed during seminars and The Art & Law Program events, and to respectfully criticize and contest seminar speakers who are invited to express their views during seminars, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, The Art & Law Program has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.
This resolution is adapted and excerpted from the 2015 University of Chicago Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression. The original is available in full here.