Free Speech Week Comes to the University of Chicago

Young Americans for Liberty brought the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) Free Speech Week to campus last week to highlight the restraints on free speech on their campus.

Last Monday, YAL hosted Azhar Majeed from FIRE to discuss the campus’s restrictive speech code. The University of Chicago has a Red Light rating, the worst possible, from FIRE. This is due in large part to two policies which allow administrators broad authority to discipline students. The first red light policy is the school’s “Bias Code,” which calls for an investigation towards any student displaying “a pre-formed negative opinion or attitude toward a group of persons who posses common characteristics.”

The University has an overly broad definition of what should be reported. During orientation seminars and in the student handbook, the University encourages students to report any comments they consider derogatory. Such policies place large amounts of discretionary power in the hands of administrators, who may permanently mark a student’s transcripts over an innocuous comment or joke. Even those students who are eventually found innocent of any disciplinary charges are still forced to take time to deal with bias allegations, not to mention the stress inherent in any disciplinary process.

Chapter leaders Bryant Jackson-Green (Students for Liberty Campus Coordinator) and Charlie Vidal (Young Americans for Liberty Illinois State Chair) erected a free speech wall in the Reynolds Club (student union) on Tuesday morning. Students expressed a variety of views on politics, the campus administration and other subjects in a respectful manner throughout the week. Thanks in part to the lack of controversy, the wall remained in place without incident for four days.

Charlie Vidal is an Illinois State Chair for Young Americans for Liberty and the Executive Director of YAL at UChicago. Follow him on twitter @CharlieVidal.

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