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Letter: Brown has a long-established commitment to freedom of expression

To the Editor:

I deeply appreciate and agree with many of the views expressed in the Sept. 14 op-ed by Sean Fischer ’23, “Brown must embrace contentious conversations to discourage a persistent culture of self-censorship.” I welcome its clear articulation of the value of confronting viewpoints that are different from one’s own beliefs. 

However, the representation that Brown University has not formally recognized the value of freedom of expression is incorrect. 

On April 12, 1966, the Brown faculty voted to recommend to the Corporation the Statement on Academic Freedom for Faculty and Students, which was in turn approved by the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, on June 4 of that year. The language states, in part, that “Academic freedom is essential to the function of education and to the pursuit of scholarship in universities. Therefore, Brown University, mindful of its historic commitment to scholarship and to the free exchange of ideas, affirms that faculty members and students alike shall enjoy full freedom in their teaching, learning and research.”

The “Chicago principles” that other universities chose to adopt from the University of Chicago have certainly been the subject of thoughtful campus discussion among the Brown faculty in recent years. However, the consensus emerging from those discussions is that Brown has had a clear and strong statement establishing freedom of expression as “the public policy of Brown University" — as it continues to be described in the Faculty Rules — for nearly 60 years, preceding the Chicago report by decades. 

Brown’s statement has been honored and canonized through the University’s Faculty Rules, as well as myriad policies and codes of conduct for all who live and work at Brown. The University’s commitment as an institution to freedom of expression is well-established and unwavering. 

Russell Carey ’91 MA’06

Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy



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