Cornell Alumni Provide Blueprint for Free Speech, Viewpoint Diversity Reforms

The Cornell Free Speech Alliance (CFSA) has published a masterful critique of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion programs at Cornell University, “Lifting the Fog: Restoring Academic Freedom & Free Expression at Cornell University.”

The issues identified in Cornell are common to other elite higher-ed institutions, including the University of Virginia. The Jefferson Council is pleased to join the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, fellow alumni groups, and allied organizations in endorsing the report.

Among the recommendations:

Adopt the Chicago Principles of free speech. UVa has already adopted its own version of this document.

Adopt the Kalven Committee Report regarding the university’s role in political and social activism. The Kalven Report asserts, “The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.” UVa, which purports to be “great and good” is, as an institution, exporting its social activist ideals to the surrounding community.

Provide training inculcating the importance of free speech and viewpoint diversity.

State clearly and unequivocally that words are not physical violence, and physical violence is not speech.

Reject the “heckler’s veto.” Do not charge security fees to a student organization based on the organization’s political beliefs or the anticipated reaction to an invited speaker. UVa has some but not all of the safeguards recommended.

Make viewpoint diversity a clearly stated objective. The UVa Board of Visitors has formally endorsed a statement in support of viewpoint diversity, but there is a vast gulf between the principle and the application of the principle.

Forbid compelled speech. UVa requires job applicants and employees to write “diversity statements.”

Provide due process to students and faculty accused of infractions. No more star chambers for those who run afoul of sexual and racial harassment rules. Due process should include the presumption of innocence, the right to an attorney, the right to appeal, and the rights to confront the accuser, present witnesses, and cross examine witnesses. UVa’s system is severely deficient.

Discourage students from spying on one another. UVa’s “Just Report It” system encourages students to submit anonymous accusations of “harassment” against favored groups.

Eliminate DEI course requirements.

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chip williams
chip williams
10 months ago

The Heterodox Academy started by ex UVa professor, diverse thinking and free speech advocate Jonathan Haidt is another excellent organization working to promote more “diversity of thought” at Universities. I belong and contribute to their cause. FYI

walter smith
walter smith
10 months ago

Joel Gardner was one of the 1.5 “diversity” members of the “free speech” committee and advocated for Kalven principles, which were shot down by the controlled, fig leaf committee.
(He was a diversity member because he was the only one slightly to the right of center. Mary Kate Cary would probably classify as center (which is the only acceptable Republican allowed at UVA, and she counts for 0.5).
The so-called “unequivocal” free speech supporting UVA Admin has withheld Jim Ryan’s advice/instructions to the Committee as “working papers.” This is another case where UVA convinced the Judge, wrongly…but remember – UVA “says” it unequivocally supports free speech (and free inquiry, but it doesn’t).
The Cornell ideas are great, and shouldn’t be controversial. That used to be thought of as “American.”

9 months ago
Reply to  walter smith

But wait UVA can boast having the Karsh Institute of Democracy whose “mission” is of course to preserve democracy and all such aspects of a healthy democracy(i.e. free speech, the constitution, the rule of law guaranteeing equal justice). And we even have a UVA trained lawyer as president sworn to uphold all such aspects who then acts to subvert and act above the law as promulgated in the affirmative action decision by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, down the road at Blacksburg a university president who is not a lawyer complies with the rule of law and does so without the benefit of either a law school background or even an institute for democracy. But Jefferson and we UVA alumni should be so proud?