Free Expression

Foundational Principles
“In Search of Civility” was a series of panel discussions held in 1990, organized in response to several incidents of harassment on campus, but also as means of broadening the discussion on issues of race, gender, and sexuality at the University of Chicago, and engaging with the bedrock ideals of free expression.

In addition to observing the hundredth anniversary of publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, the 1959 Darwin Centennial was a celebration of the freedom to teach evolutionary science, and was one of the first major public events in support of Darwin’s theories since the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925.


Charlie Hebdo journalist Zineb El Rhazoui discussed censorship and the nature of freedom of expression and its limitations with Robert Morrissey, the Benjamin Franklin Professor of French Literature at the University of Chicago.

Foundational Principles

The following are faculty reports and policies that have guided the University’s approach to free expression and open discourse over the years and to this day.

Faculty Reports

  • Chicago Principles: Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression
    The Committee on Freedom of Expression was appointed in July 2014. The committee’s charge was to draft a statement “articulating the University’s overarching commitment to free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation among all members of the University’s community.” The committee’s report was published in January 2015.
  • Report of the Diversity Advisory Council
    In 2015, The Diversity Advisory Council was charged with reviewing institutional practices in consultation with members of the campus community in order to “insure an intentionally open community of learning, for all.” The Council’s Statement on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (p.57) outlines the importance of freedom of expression in the context of diversity and inclusion, noting these are not principles in conflict, but rather that “each requires the other, in order to foster the trust needed to enact that principle and those aims.”
  • Report of the Committee on University Discipline for Disruptive Conduct
    In June 2016, the provost appointed the Committee on University Discipline for Disruptive Conduct to, among other tasks, “review and make recommendations about procedures for student disciplinary matters involving disruptive conduct including interference with freedom of inquiry or debate.”



“Education should not be intended to make people comfortable; it is meant to make them think.”


Hanna Holborn Gray
University of Chicago President

“The policy of repression of ideas cannot work and has never worked. The alternative to it is the long and difficult road of education. To this, the American people have been committed. It requires patience and tolerance, even in the face of intense provocation.”


Robert Maynard Hutchins
Hearing of the State Seditions Investigation Commission, April 21, 1949