Freedom of Speech at the University of Illinois

On December 8, the University of Illinois released a set of guiding principles on three current issues: Globalization and Immigration, Civic Engagement, and Freedom of Speech on Campus.

It is as of yet unclear if these principles will have visible effects at Uni. The principle with the greatest potential impact is the one regarding freedom of speech.

In a press release, the University summarized their statement on freedom of speech, saying:

the statement reaffirms the system’s ‘unyielding allegiance’ to free speech and the power that ‘even controversial, contentious, and unpopular speech’ holds to create active and informed citizens.  But academic excellence also requires an environment of mutual respect, and the system will ‘vigorously and even-handedly protect … against conduct that falls outside the First Amendment” to ensure a safe and robust exchange of viewpoints’”.

The statement also encouraged members of the university community to “respond to speech with which they disagree by engaging in counter-speech of their own”, but emphasizing that such debate must be done in a respectful way through which both opinions can be heard and discussed.

Also noted was that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of whatever one might say, and that the University would work with the community to keep members informed about the benefits and costs of free speech so that “individuals and organizations within the U of I System can responsibly decide for themselves the ways in which they choose to make use of their expressive liberties.”

Uni policy regarding free speech is as follows:

“Students are responsible at all times for their language and gestures, including in classrooms, in hallways, and with other students. Profane or obscene language is always unacceptable. Students responsible for improper language and gestures directed toward any teacher, staff member, or other students are to be reported to the Assistant Director for Student Life for appropriate disciplinary action.”

Any impact that the University’s statement may have on Uni policy is unknown. Uni High Director Jeffrey Walkington was unavailable for comment.