Free and Open Academic Inquiry and Debate on Our Campuses is Essential to Our Democracy and National Well-Being

Along with over 95 other organizations that represent higher education concerns, ACES has signed on to the following statement.

Colleges and universities exist to examine complex issues, challenges, and ideas, and to provide a forum in which issues and opinions can be explored and openly debated. In our intensely politicized and divided country, with social media and societal silos coarsening already heated conversations, this can be extraordinarily challenging. Yet, fostering a rigorous and civil exchange of ideas has never been more important. To best serve American society, higher education institutions are committed to transparent intellectual inquiry and academic excellence, free speech, and civil discourse. It is incumbent on our governmental institutions to share and support this commitment.

Efforts to suppress inquiry, curb discussion, and limit what can be studied violate the basic principles of free speech and an open exchange of ideas, and undermine the very purpose of higher education. Nonetheless, some elected officials have proposed measures foreclosing evaluation of complex and challenging ideas.

The undersigned higher education associations and organizations—representing two and four-year, public and private colleges and universities—believe this development threatens our civic health and the ability of the United States to compete globally. If American higher education is to continue to support our economy and national security as we always have done, an unshakable commitment to robust intellectual inquiry and engagement is required.

Controversial and contentious topics deserve a place in the curriculum, but no matter how vigorous the classroom discussion, it should be respectful. Some campus speech is unacceptable, such as speech that violates the law, defames individuals, or threatens violence. Outside a few narrow exceptions, proposals to ban speech based on the idea expressed are not only constitutionally suspect but fundamentally at odds with the values of a free and open society.

All members of the campus community must be able to speak their minds freely, even if some hold opinions that others find objectionable, factually unsupportable, or abhorrent. The answer to speech with which one disagrees is more speech, not enforced silence. Open academic inquiry and vigorous debate are core values of higher education, and America generally, and we must never waver in our commitment to these vital principles.


ACPA-College Student Educators International

American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare

American Association of Colleges and Universities

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education

American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers

American Association of Community Colleges

American Association of Directors of Psychiatry Residency Training

American Association of Physics Teachers

American Association of State Colleges and Universities

American Association of University Professors

American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges

American Dental Education Association

American Indian Higher Education Consortium

American Mathematical Society

American Psychological Association

American Society of Biomechanics

Asociación de Colegios y Universidades Privadas de Puerto Rico (ACUP) [The

Association of Private Colleges and Universities of Puerto Rico]

Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA)

Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE)

Association for Women in Mathematics

Association of American Medical Colleges

Association of American Universities

Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities

Association of College and University Housing Officers-International

Association of College Unions International

Association of Community College Trustees

Association of Counselor Education and Supervision

Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges

Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU)

Association of Independent Colleges & Universities in Massachusetts

Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania

Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island

Association of Independent Colleges of Arts & Design

Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities

Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities

Association of Pathology Chairs

Association of Presbyterian Colleges & Universities

Association of Public and Land-grant Universities

Association of Research Libraries

Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors

Association of Vermont Independent Colleges (AVIC)

Biophysical Society

Campus Compact

Council for Christian Colleges & Universities

Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities

Common App

Conference for Mercy Higher Education

Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges

Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area

Consortium on Financing Higher Education

Council for Advancement and Support of Education

Council for Opportunity in Education

Council of Graduate Schools

Council of Independent Colleges

Council of Independent Nebraska Colleges Foundation

Council on Governmental Relations

Council on Social Work Education


Graduate Management Admission Council

Great Lakes Colleges Association

Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work

Higher Education Consultants Association

Higher Learning Commission

Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities

Independent Colleges of Washington

Kansas Independent College Association

Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

Middle States Commission on Higher Education

NAFSA: Association of International Educators

NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education

National Association for Campus Activities

National Association for College Admission Counseling

National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO)

National Association of College and University Business Officers

National Association of Colleges and Employers

National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education

National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

National Association of System Heads

New American Colleges and Universities

New England Commission of Higher Education

New Hampshire College and University Council

NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation

NODA-Association for Orientation, Transition, and Retention in Higher Education

North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities

Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Oregon Alliance of Independent Colleges and Universities

Phi Beta Kappa Society

State Higher Education Executive Officers Association

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities

The Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors

WASC Senior College & University Commission (WSCUC) Yes We Must Coalition

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