Statement on Free Speech

By vote of its faculty, Princeton University has adopted the University of Chicago principles on freedom of expression. They are incorporated into the University’s Rights, Rules, Responsibilities in section 1.1.3. The James Madison Program, like all units of the University, is bound by these principles and strictly honors them. Faculty, staff, visiting fellows, post-doctoral fellows, undergraduate fellows, and everyone associated with the Madison Program enjoys their robust protections. Indeed, the Program encourages all members of the Princeton community to speak their minds and contribute to the discussion of vital issues with no fear of thought or language policing or disciplinary action or retaliation of any kind for expressing unorthodox or unpopular views.

At the same time, we at Princeton and in the Madison Program value civility—but that does not mean or require that anyone hold or decline to hold any particular view, or that one submit to anyone else's ideas about the language in which issues are to be framed, or the terms in which they are to be discussed, or the assumptions on which the discussion will proceed. What it does mean and require is that we all do business in the proper currency of intellectual discourse—a currency consisting of evidence, reasons, and arguments.

Some of the issues that are addressed in Madison Program activities and events are not only controversial, but also sensitive and, to some people, personal. We nevertheless need to discuss them frankly. As our Dean of the College Jill Dolan says, we need to be "resilient and brave" in discussing matters that engage our emotions. As Madison Program Faculty Associate Cornel West has stated, "the very point of a liberal arts education is to disturb and unsettle us." That means that all positions and points of view, no matter how radical or even unjust or immoral they may seem to people who oppose them, are on the table for discussion, scrutiny, and assessment on equal terms. There is no orthodoxy; there are no dogmas. There is no censorship. We hope there will be no self-censorship.

Please note that the expression of an opinion, whatever it happens to be, by a student or faculty or staff member associated with the Madison Program must not be regarded as representing the view of the Madison Program. The Madison Program provides a forum for free expression and robust, civil dialogue and debate. It does not take positions in those debates.