Rutgers President Robert Barchi releases statement on right to free speech
University President Robert L. Barchi released a statement on the first amendment and freedom of speech at Rutgers on March 1.
Barchi defended the rights of the University community to say what they want, including the rights of faculty members to express their own views in class.
“All of the members of our community — our faculty members, students, alumni and staff — are free to express their viewpoints in public forums as private citizens, including viewpoints that the University itself or I personally may not share,” he said.
Statements or comments made at Rutgers should not be taken to mean they reflect the values of every student or members of the University Administration, Barchi said.
Rutgers does not necessarily support these statements, including controversial ones, Barchi said.
“We do not restrict the activities of recognized University organizations, including the speakers they invite to campus, as long as these organizations obey the law and follow University policy and guidelines regarding these events,” he said.
Some of the rhetoric used on campus has been negative, but still fall within the parameters of free speech, Barchi said.
“Some of the comments have been offensive to many people and have been inconsistent with the commitment Rutgers has to reasoned discussion and balanced points of view,” he said.
Academic freedom, the right of faculty members to say what they think, is “a cornerstone of American education,” Barchi said. At Rutgers, faculty members are told to “explore” ideas even if the general populace disagrees with them.
University Chancellor Richard L. Edwards said in an email that Rutgers has “a proud tradition” of supporting free speech, especially that of faculty members.
“(This is) a tradition that every now and then requires renewed support and vigorous safeguarding,” Edwards said. “Though ours is a diverse community full of disparate experiences and ideas, our continued commitment to free expression will ensure these distinct strands, and our community, remain tightly woven.”
The only limits that might be placed on a faculty member are legal ones — they must stay within the bounds of laws, Barchi said.
“While I will not defend the content of every opinion expressed by every member of our academic community, or of speakers who we invite to our campus, I will defend their right to speak freely. That freedom is fundamental to our University, our society and our nation,” Barchi said.
Nikhilesh De is a School of Engineering junior. He is the news editor of The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.