The faculty at Lewis and Clark College are dedicated to the free exchange of ideas in the service of liberal education. We believe, therefore, that the College must guarantee all members of the Lewis and Clark 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 institution, Lewis and Clark fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the institution to discuss any problem that presents itself.
The ideas of different members of the College will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the institution itself to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although Lewis and Clark greatly values civility, and although all members of the Lewis and Clark 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 institution may restrict expression that violates the law, 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 institution. In addition, the College may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of 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 expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with our commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.
In a word, Lewis and Clark’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 College to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the College community, not for the College as an institution, 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 members of the Lewis and Clark College community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the Lewis and Clark College’s educational mission.
As a corollary to the College’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of our community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of this 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 either to express or to hear views they reject or even loathe. To this end, Lewis and Clark College 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.
Signatories: Ben Westervelt, David Campion, Karen Gross, Kurt Fosso, Lyell Asher, Rishona Zimring, Stepan Simek, Susan Glosser, Todd Lochner, Cliff Bekar, Stephen Weeks, Molly Robinson-Kelly, Matthieu Raillard
* (This statement is adapted from the University of Chicago’s 2015 statement on freedom of expression, found here: http://provost.uchicago.edu/FOECommitteeReport.pdf)