Should UVa Adopt Institutional Neutrality?

“Institutional neutrality” as conceived by Bing image creator.

From the latest issue of The Jefferson Independent

by Lauren Horan

Places of higher education exist to serve as sanctuaries for the exchange of ideas. With diverse student populations, a plethora of ethnic backgrounds and a variety of lived experiences, college campuses are enriched by the students that inhabit them.

However, with substantially sized student bodies, there will undoubtedly be a wide range of opinions regarding the highly contentious political and social issues of our time, with the Israel-Hamas war being one of them. This then presents the question of how higher institutions ought to react. When current events concern the students of these universities, are administrators obligated to issue a statement that demonstrates an ambiguously neutral stance, pacifying the anger of one half of the cohort while only enraging the other?

The Kalven Report, a document stipulating the University of Chicago’s role on institutional neutrality, arose as the creation of a committee by then-University President George Beadle. The purpose of the seven-person committee was to better understand how the University should approach “political and social action.” The committee’s efforts were prompted by the various protests over the social issues of the 1960s, including opposition to the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement.

Led by famous legal scholar Harry Kalven Jr., the committee published areport in November 1967 in which they firmly adopted a position of neutrality in order to best preserve the university’s goal of being a haven for “the discovery, improvement, and dissemination of knowledge.”

“The instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student. The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic,” the Kalven committee expressed in their statement.
Read the whole thing.

Lauren Horan, a fourth year Government and Spanish student, serves on the Jefferson Council Board of Advisors.

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Paul Wagner
Paul Wagner
6 months ago

Thank you Ms. Horan. I wish that the committee that wrote the otherwise excellent free speech statement for UVa had included an institutional neutrality paragraph. My understanding is that they considered it but it was voted down. Of course, it’s not too late to add one. That should be an action item for UVa and President Ryan coming out of this past week’s free speech summit.

Walter smith
Walter smith
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Wagner

But it won’t be!
Unless rammed down the Ryan Admin’s throat…
Truly a disgrace at Thomas Jefferson’s dream school…