University of Chicago Dean to Freshmen: Students, Staff Free to Debate ‘Without Fear of Being Silenced’

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

University of Chicago Dean Jay Ellison reminded incoming freshmen in a recent welcome letter that the prestigious university doesn’t permit safe spaces.

“At the University of Chicago, we insist that all faculty and students are free to debate, disagree, and argue, without fear of being silenced,” Dean of Students Dr. John (Jay) Ellison wrote in a letter obtained by Campus Reform that welcomed incoming freshmen to campus.

“From its founding in 1890 the university has been a place of intense and productive debate and discussion, undertaken with the conviction that full freedom of expression and analysis is crucial to the cultural identity and scholarly mission of a real university,” Ellison wrote. “Because our campus is a place that respects unique perspectives and powerful ideas, it is also a place where opinions and even core beliefs will be tested, sharpened, and subjected to rigorous academic analysis.”

The letter introduces the institution’s noteworthy “Chicago Statement” on free expression and academic freedom which has been adopted by many universities across the country. In fact, institutions like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the Heterodox Academy use an institution’s adoption of the “Chicago Statement” as an indicator of their attitude towards free and open intellectual inquiry.

The statement declares that “although members of the university 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.”

Campus Reform notes that The letter is similar to one that Ellison sent last year, but is less direct. It does not include terms used in the previous letter like “trigger warning.”

Earlier this year, CNN commentator Van Jones blasted the concept of “safe spaces” during a panel event hosted by the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.


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