A letter signed by 14 UC Berkeley professors calls for a restoration of free speech values at universities and other academic institutions across the world.
The letter, known as the Stanford Academic Freedom Declaration, expresses concern for academic freedom, claiming that researchers whose findings “challenge dominant narratives” are observing difficulty in hiring, publishing and funding. It calls for universities, journals and other institutions to adopt the “Chicago Trifecta,” or a set of three reports by the University of Chicago that argue for freedom of research and discourse.
“The University of Chicago has always been dedicated to free and open discourse, challenging one another, and keeping an open mind,” said Geoffrey Stone, law professor at the University of Chicago, in an email. “Each of these reports reflects and reaffirms these values.”
Stone is one of seven authors of the Chicago Principles, one of the three Chicago Trifecta reports. According to the declaration, the principles outline the extent to which the University of Chicago can control discourse and debate of information, while the other two — the Kalven Report and the Shils Report — focus on political and social neutrality as well as unbiased hiring and promotion, respectively.
As of now, the declaration has been signed by more than 1,000 academics from institutions around the world.
“I signed the letter because I have heard from many students and colleagues that they are afraid of openly discussing controversial issues,” said campus assistant statistics professor Will Fithian in an email. “I’m grateful to Berkeley leaders like Chancellor Christ and Dean Chemerinsky for their strong public statements in support of free expression, but to realize those aims we all need to foster a community that tolerates a wide range of opinions even on difficult topics that provoke very strong feelings.”
Some specific issues of academic freedom as defined in the declaration include the requirement of “approval from bureaucrats seeking to impose a social agenda such as specific views of social justice or DEI principles,” noting an “atmosphere of censorship” in academia.
The declaration also calls for faculty worldwide to join nonpartisan associations such as the Academic Freedom Alliance or the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
However, not everyone is in support of the declaration or its values. The Stanford Graduate School of Business recently hosted a conference on academic freedom, but according to The Stanford Daily, it garnered controversy from Stanford students and faculty for both its choice of speakers and its initial resolve to be closed to the media.
In response to the declaration, UC Berkeley holds that its values uphold academic freedom.
“This university has an unwavering commitment to freedom of speech, academic integrity and freedom of expression,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof. “I don’t think there’s any daylight between the university stance regarding academic freedom of speech and those regarding foundational values because those are in fact values of the institution.”