George Mason University Reaffirms Commitment to Free Expression in Letter to Students

The Open Inquiry Project always aims to commend those universities which take positive steps to protect speech on campus. These steps can take many forms, from statements which express the institutions commitment to free speech, such as the one sent by the Dean at the University of Chicago to incoming freshman, to actual changes to policies which may hamper open dialogue, such as the bias response system Wisconsin recently revised. All of these measures help to ensure that free speech and open inquiry are protected on campus which is vital to providing students a full education.

In recent days George Mason University became the latest university to send a reminder to their students about the importance of free speech on campus. The email was sent by the Vice President for University Life, Rose Pascarell, and was sent in response to several recent campus events which involved “hostile behavior directed at guests to the campus, including physical confrontations.” It is reassuring to see administrators taking a stand to ensure their campuses remain places of civil discourse where all views can be discussed.

A section of the letter George Mason student’s received can be read below. For more information on the letter readers can look at this article from the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education or here for further information.

Our campus community, like others, will continue to be challenged by activities that some may view as personally distasteful or offensive. However, unlike many communities, we have the opportunity here at Mason to set an example and lead. I ask that you please remain respectful of opposing viewpoints and not engage in acts of incivility. You most certainly can counter speech you are offended by with your own speech. You can counter activities that are disagreeable to you with your own activities. You can choose to engage with those who have opposing viewpoints or you can walk away. Although the University supports your right to express discontent in a lawful manner, it is also obligated to uphold the rights of those who visit our campus to engage in constitutionally protected activities. Therefore, your cooperation is appreciated as the University continues to serve as a venue for engaging dialogues and freedom of expression.