Institute for Democracy & Higher Education

Speech, Inclusion, and Academic Freedom

Is academic freedom a right or a responsibility? What is the educational approach to balancing speech and inclusion?

Too often, speech and inclusion are described as a zero-sum game in which one trumps the other. That is not a given, especially if academic freedom is viewed not as a right but as a responsibility. Can we shift the conversation to a discussion of academic freedom as a collective duty, a responsibility inherent in the social contract between higher education and democracy?

Academic freedom entails the responsibility to study and teach disciplines, and to offer cocurricular programming, in ways that are publicly relevant and that inform discussions about the most pressing social, economic, and political challenges. Defending democracy means defending the academic freedom to examine and draw attention to the threats facing democracy.

Talk About It

Free Speech and Inclusion on Campus: A Discussion Guide

Tested on multiple campuses and endorsed by NACUA, this guide offers a framework for discussion, viewpoints for consideration, facilitation tips, and a short primer on the First Amendment.

Bring IDHE to Your Campus

Whether virtually or in person, IDHE can visit your campus to lead a workshop on facilitating politically charged discussions, join a classroom or coalition discussion of ideas for change, or help assess your campus climate for political learning and participation. Contact us at [email protected] and let us know how we can help.