College should be a time to engage with new ideas, test boundaries, and experiment with various forms of speech and activism. This cannot happen in a campus community that isn’t committed to protecting free speech for all, nor in one that ignores the importance of diversity and inclusion. This advice, designed for both undergraduate and graduate students, is meant to show how these frequently juxtaposed principles can actually work together to amplify new voices, enrich debate, and expand free speech for everyone’s benefit.
Students should be given the latitude to pursue a broad range of intellectual interests. While faculty can and must help guide their critical thinking in part by critiquing their work, students should never be penalized for any work on the basis of their political views. See more resources in our library.
College is a time when students are often immersed in new ideas and perspectives for the first time. They can help support institutional efforts to keep campuses open to a wide range of perspectives. See more resources in our library.
Discrimination and Harassment
Students have the right to an educational environment free from discrimination and harassment. A university’s discrimination and harassment policies should avoid punitive measures for protected speech, but students can also reflect on the language they use to ensure that their peers feel comfortable participating equally in the academic life of the institution. See more resources in our library.
Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion are paramount to the healthy functioning of a university. Students have a responsibility to keep the campus inclusive and to build a campus culture in which everyone feels welcome—regardless of their backgrounds, identities, beliefs, or political views. See more resources in our library.
Columbia physics students denounce classmate’s racist remarks
Students should think critically about the language they use. That certain forms of hateful expression may be protected speech does not mean that they are without consequences. Hateful expression can negatively impact campus climates, making some people feel unsafe and poisoning the potential for productive dialogue and debate. See more resources in our library.
While students have the right to invite whomever they choose to speak on campus, they should take care to ensure that such speakers advance productive critical engagement and are not simply incendiary provocateurs. Once a speaker has been invited, students groups should have the right to hold the event. See more resources in our library.
Protests on Campus
Student protests are a long-standing feature of campus life, and even contentious demonstrations for social change should be zealously protected. At the same time, protesters should not be permitted to obstruct the speech of their opponents. See more resources in our library.
Student organizations—from clubs to student government to campus newspapers—play an essential role in shaping campus climates. Student leaders should strive to model a commitment to the values of free speech and inclusion to keep the campus open to all people and all ideas.