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Statement of Free Speech Values

The University has adopted a Values Statement and a Statement on Free Speech Values. A joint effort between the President's Office and University Senate, the statements were developed by faculty, staff and students as part of the Joint President/Senate Inclusion and Respect Task Force in spring 2018.

Statement on Free Speech Values

The primary purpose of a university is to discover and disseminate knowledge through teaching, research, and service. To fulfill these functions, a free exchange of ideas is necessary not only within its walls but with the world beyond. The history of intellectual discovery and growth clearly demonstrates the need for freedom; the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable. Whenever someone is deprived of the right to state unmentionable views, others are necessarily deprived of the right to listen to and evaluate those views. Few institutions in our society have this same central purpose. It follows that a university must protect and guarantee intellectual and academic freedom. To do so it must promote an environment in which any and all ideas are presented. Through open exchange, vigorous debate, and rational discernment, the campus community can evaluate ideas.

Every member of the campus community has an obligation to support the right of free expression at the university, and to refrain from actions that reduce intellectual discussion. No member shall prevent such expression, which is protected under the constitutions of the United States and the State of Maryland.

The University does not have a speech code. History shows that marginalized communities have successfully promoted their interests because of the right to express their views. In fact, marginalized communities have been silenced by speech codes and other regulations against “offensive” speech.

In addition to the obligation to promote and protect free expression, individuals assume further responsibilities as members of the university. The campus expects each individual community member to consider the harm that may result from the use of slurs or disparaging epithets intended to malign, for example, another’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or physical or mental disability. While legal protections for free expression may sometimes supersede the values of civility and mutual respect, members of the university community should weigh these values carefully in exercising their fundamental right to free expression.

The University values and embraces the ideals of freedom of inquiry, freedom of thought and freedom of expression, all of which must be sustained in a community of scholars. While these freedoms protect controversial ideas and differing views, and sometimes offensive and hurtful words and symbols, they do not protect conduct that violates criminal law or university policy.

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