FOR RELEASE: March 15, 2024

Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute
703-506-8030

Vienna, Va., March 15, 2024 – The Media Institute’s initiative “The Madison Project: Free Speech and Press in American Democracy” has released a policy paper titled “Can Universities Coexist With Free Speech?” that examines the realities of free speech and the First Amendment on American campuses.

Media Institute Senior Distinguished Fellow Stuart N. Brotman interviews Professor Geoffrey R. Stone, one of the nation’s pre-eminent First Amendment scholars.  Prof. Stone chaired a committee at the University of Chicago that developed what have become known as the “Chicago Principles” for freedom of expression on campus.  About 80 colleges and universities have adopted these principles.

As Brotman notes, today’s “perfect storm of campus unrest” has brought forth a new national debate over free speech principles in academia that has focused renewed interest on the work of Prof. Stone’s committee at Chicago, which articulated principles now “being tested almost daily.”

Prof. Stone begins with a critical but often-overlooked distinction: The First Amendment applies only to public institutions such as the University of California or the University of Illinois, but it does not apply to private institutions like Harvard or Stanford.  And public universities must conform strictly to the First Amendment.

The Chicago Principles articulate this, Prof. Stone says: “A public university, under the First Amendment, is responsible for allowing the expression by students, by faculty, and by visitors who are invited of views that may be disturbing or offensive to other members of the community.”

Private universities, however, are not subject to this First Amendment standard, even though “open discourse is essential to the values and aspirations of a university.”  As a result, Prof. Stone says, government laws that try to impose First Amendment obligations on private schools “are making very difficult and delicate judgments about the academic freedom of private institutions.”

“Can Universities Coexist With Free Speech?” is available online at https://www.mediainstitute.org/the-madison-project/.  The full interview can be found in Stuart Brotman’s book The First Amendment Lives On (University of Missouri Press, 2022).

The Madison Project is underwritten by foundations, corporations, and others with an interest in media and communications, the First Amendment, and the preservation of American democracy.  Support is provided in part by Verizon, LG Electronics, and Wiley Rein LLP.  For more information about underwriting opportunities, contact Richard T. Kaplar at kaplar@mediainstitute.org.

The Media Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in communications policy and the First Amendment. Visit the Institute at www.mediainstitute.org.

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