Free Speech and the Diverse University

26 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2019

See all articles by Keith E. Whittington

Keith E. Whittington

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: December 13, 2018


The values of free speech and inclusivity have often been pitted against one another in recent debates about the future of higher education. This is an unfortunate and damaging framing. Modern universities are deeply committed to both values, and the challenge is to find ways to reconcile them and to examine their requirements with an eye toward reconciling them. Both values are related to the central mission of the university to advance and disseminate human knowledge.

If universities are to be productive in pursuit of their scholarly mission and welcoming to diverse array of individuals and groups, then they will need to nurture cultures that are supportive of the mission of the university as well as design policies that are consistent with that mission. This article argues that better realizing these twin values in modern universities requires a three-step process of reform. First, university faculty need to build agreement about a core set of principles to which they are committed and to memorialize those principles. Second, universities need to take active measures to socialize individuals joining the campus community into the principles, values and commitments that animate those communities. Third, universities need to adopt policies, rules and practices that effectively implement and administer those principles, ranging from robust protections for scholarly inquiry and teaching to mechanisms to insure the campus public sphere is open to all members of the campus community to freely discuss and debate matters of general concern.

Keywords: free speech, academic freedom, campus free speech, inclusivity, higher education

Suggested Citation

Whittington, Keith E., Free Speech and the Diverse University (December 13, 2018). Fordham Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Keith E. Whittington (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States
609-258-3453 (Phone)
609-258-1110 (Fax)


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