Academic Freedom and Free Speech at the University of Minnesota

“At the University of Minnesota we are committed to providing an environment where opposing points of view, critical thinking, and disagreements can occur in a productive and respectful manner. As is happening at universities across the country, we have to grapple with and find ways to manage differences of opinion.

We are dedicated to promoting free speech while also fostering a campus climate that supports equity, diversity, and inclusion. This includes a diversity of thought and the ability to learn how to disagree with one another with civility.

Our principles say that we strive to sustain an open exchange of ideas in an environment that embodies the values of academic freedom, responsibility, integrity and cooperation. We give life to those principles in an atmosphere of mutual respect, free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance.”

--President Eric W. Kaler

The American philosopher John Dewey put together the committee that issued the famous 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. That declaration explores the nature of the “academic calling” and the function of academic institutions, and argues that "the work of the professoriate requires that our universities" honor the good of academic freedom. Of course it is not just the professoriate who are subject to the academic calling. Any good university extends academic freedom to all its participants, all its constituents. All may here be engaged in and invigorated by the academy's quest for truth.

Dewey supported the quest for truth, but he was suspicious of claims to certainty. In The Quest for Certainty (1), he asserted that “every great advance has issued from a new audacity in imagination.” He understood thought, inquiry, to be unleashed by problems, puzzles, the foiling of common expectations and assumptions. Inquiry that runs counter to common assumptions-- audacious inquiry-- may well encounter resistance, but it is the responsibility of the university to support such inquiry, to push forward at the boundaries on the frontiers of knowledge. The University of Minnesota is committed to upholding that responsibility by respecting academic freedom, a crucial pillar of the American university system.

--Executive Vice President and Provost Karen Hanson

(1) Dewey, John. The Quest for Certainty: A Study of the Relation of Knowledge and Action. Gifford Lectures; 1929. New York: Minton, Balch, 1929.

Official policies and codes of conduct that affirm and address academic freedom and free speech protections and responsibilities at the University: