Our Commitment to
Freedom of Speech
UT BOARD OF REGENTS FORMALLY APPROVE “THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SYSTEM COMMITMENT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION” BASED ON THE CHICAGO STATEMENT ON FREE SPEECH
November 17, 2022
At The University of Texas System Board of Regents meeting on November 17, 2022, the UT Regents elected to adopt the core principles of the Chicago Statement on Free Speech as the UT System’s formal commitment to free speech and expression. The Chicago Statement, originally drafted by the University of Chicago, has been adopted by more than 90 higher education institutions and faculty bodies across the country and has become a gold standard for institutions that wish to show their commitment to free speech and expression in higher education.
As prepared in the UT System Board Agenda Book
The Chicago Statement on Free Speech articulates a commitment to free and open inquiry in all matters and guarantees members of the university community broad latitude to speak, write, listen, and learn. The Chicago Statement recognizes that there must, at times, be restrictions on speech, as long as such restrictions are not used in a manner inconsistent with the law and free and open discussion of ideas. Over 90 institutions and faculty bodies have adopted or endorsed the Chicago Statement or a substantially similar statement. The Regents’ endorsement of the Chicago Statement reaffirms the UT System’s long-held commitment to free speech, expression and the exchange of ideas and perspectives by students, faculty and staff at UT institutions.
Statement from UT System Board Chairman Kevin Eltife
“The Board of Regents’ adoption of the Chicago Statement on Free Speech underscores The University of Texas System’s long-standing commitment to freedom of speech and expression on our campuses in a manner that promotes open inquiry, provides transparency and upholds the rule of law. We will always value and embrace the debate of competing ideas and principles.”
Statement from UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken
“The freedom to openly exchange ideas is essential to learning, and the adoption of the principles of the Chicago Statement on Free Speech will support free and healthy discussion and debate across UT institutions. This freedom is at the core of the college experience and a democratic society and must be protected.”
The University of Texas System Commitment to Freedom of Speech and Expression
Approved on November 17, 2022 by the UT System Board of Regents, in its entirety:
Because The University of Texas System (UT System) is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the UT System 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 UT System, the UT System and the UT institutions fully respect and support the freedom of all members of the UT System community “to discuss any problem that presents itself.”
Of course, the ideas of different members of the UT System community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the UT System or the UT institutions to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the UT System greatly values civility, and although all members of the UT System 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 the UT System 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. UT institutions may restrict speech and 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 any UT institution. In addition, the UT institutions may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of speech and expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the institution. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of speech and expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the UT System commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.
In a word, the 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 individual members of the UT System community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the UT System community, not for the UT System or the UT institutions, 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. Indeed, fostering the ability of individual members of the UT System community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the educational mission of the UT System and the UT institutions.
As a corollary to the commitment to protect and promote free speech and expression, members of the UT System community must also act in conformity with the principle of free speech and expression. Although members of the UT System community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, the UT System and the UT institutions have 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.