April 23, 2020
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Members of Kenyon’s faculty voted unanimously at an April 24 meeting to approve a statement affirming their commitment to freedom of expression for students and faculty. The statement urges support for a free exchange of ideas and encourages “critical and creative thinking.”
“Because the central mission of the College, liberal education, requires free and open inquiry in all matters, students and faculty should have the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn,” the statement reads. “By listening to and challenging those with whom we disagree, we open ourselves to the possibility of learning. And even when debates and arguments don’t change our opinions, they may help us understand their grounds more fully and improve our ability to defend them rationally and persuasively.”
The statement of principles will be used by faculty members as a guide as they consider how to engage with difficult questions in a substantive manner while preserving respect for those with varying viewpoints. Campus Senate, a body composed of elected student representatives, faculty members and administrators, is expected to consider the statement and its implications for academic life. The principles affirmed by the faculty provide a framework for campus conversations about freedom of expression and a jumping-off point for statements related to other aspects of living and working at Kenyon.
“Unfortunately, freedom of speech is under siege on many college campuses,” said Professor of Mathematics Carol Schumacher, who serves as chair of the faculty. “Kenyon stands strongly behind protecting it, and we believe it is crucial that we defend it each and every day. With this statement, the Kenyon faculty is taking the lead in this, by reasserting our commitment to the importance of freedom of expression in our community and as a pillar of the liberal arts.”
Harry M. Clor Associate Professor of Political Science David Leibowitz, Assistant Professor of History Anton Matytsin, Assistant Professor of English Rosemary O’Neill, and Robert A. Oden, Jr. Professor of Biology Joan Slonczewski drafted the statement.