We are alumni of the University of Chicago. As students at the University, we learned the value of ideas. We not only support people’s rights to share ideas, but are also against those who would punish people for exercising their rights to free speech. That is why we are angry that the University will not commit to doing the same.
In the past, UChicago has made some controversial decisions in support of free speech. In the fall of 2016, it told incoming students that it would not provide academic safe spaces or cancel speakers out of fear of limiting the exchange of ideas. UChicago stated that it would not allow trigger warnings (even for ideas that could retraumatize students) because the ideas and debates were more important.
It is therefore disappointing that you will not commit to ignoring any punishments that result from potential students’ expressions of their ideas when considering them for admission.
Recently, news broke that a school district in Texas would suspend students who participated in #neveragain activities, which could jeopardize their admission to college. Many universities rushed to reaffirm their commitment to free speech by stating that they would ignore any suspensions or other punishments resulting from these protests. However, the University of Chicago chose only to state that it reaffirms the University’s longstanding principle of free expression.
It is not enough to passively sit by and reaffirm the idea of free expression. As a university, you must act to undo any damage done by those who are against it.
As alumni and people who value the power of ideas, we urge you to act. It is vital that the University of Chicago publicly support all those who protest in support of an ideal like #neveragain by promising to ignore all punishments for protests when making admissions decisions.
Phyllis Clark Dykhuizen (A.B. ’66)
Elizabeth Clewett (A.B. ’92)
Marta Dykhuizen Shore (A.B. ’92)
Charles Ellenbogen (A.B. ’91)
Jennie Goldberg Roffman (A.B. ’92)
Ju Namkung (A.B. ’92)
Brendan A. Niemira (A.B. ’91)
Michael Newirth (A.B. ’92)
Sean Shore (A.B. ’92)
Rachel Smith (A.B. ’92)
Meegan Stock Niemira (A.B. ’91)