Academic Freedom & the Chicago Principles

Academic freedom is one of my core values. A few years ago, the University of Chicago conducted a study by a committee to define academic freedom and the values of the University of Chicago. These have become the so-called “Chicago principles.” This document can be found through a simple Google search or via These ideals are discussed in a committee report by senior professors at the University of Chicago in a three-page document. Here, I summarize the major points of the document that pertain to academic freedom:

  • Guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.Without a vibrant commitment to free and open inquiry, a university ceases to be a university.
  • That universities exist for the sake of such inquiry, [and] … education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think.
  • Universities should be expected to provide the conditions within which hard thought, and therefore strong disagreement, independent judgment, and the questioning of stubborn assumptions, can flourish in an environment of the greatest freedom.
  • … supports the freedom of all members of the University community “to discuss any problem that presents itself.”
  • … it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.
  • The University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.
  • Although members of the University community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe.