CMC Launches Web Page Dedicated to Free Speech, Holds Student Forum

Claremont McKenna College held a free speech forum on Nov. 3 and recently established a section of the CMC website dedicated to free speech issues.

The forum was organized by Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College and Free Food for Thought, and included a discussion of standards for bringing speakers to the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. Many students agreed that they want to CMC to continue inviting a variety of speakers, because they chose to attend CMC to experience a variety of political viewpoints and take part in discourse, which includes differing opinions.

The online free speech page, titled "Freedom of Expression at CMC," was created "in the face of controversial local and national threats to freedom of expression and assembly," CMC President Hiram Chodosh wrote in an email to students. 

The page addresses constitutional protections for freedom of expression, academic freedom, practicing freedom of expression, CMC's demonstration policy, further resources, and archived statements about freedom of expression.

“Protecting the right to free expression is absolutely vital, yet insufficient, to accomplish our full academic mission," Chodosh wrote in a campus-wide email. "We must find the best ways to learn from one another in the practice and purpose of open, engaged, respectful debate and dialogue.”

The section on constitutional protections chronicles the constitutional basis for freedom of expression and includes summaries of the principles of free speech and the potential exceptions to it. Additionally, it makes clear that the First Amendment does not prohibit hate speech.

“The First Amendment does not have an exception for ‘hate speech,’ as the First Amendment is not designed to prohibit offensive, rude, or even vile speech," the site reads.

The section of the site addressing academic freedom is modeled after University of Chicago’s Statement on Academic Freedom. The page reads, “CMC is committed to academic freedom in its paramount importance to higher education.”

Student responses to the site were mixed.

"I think the microsite fails to mention how speakers are chosen for campus, and where the line is drawn when bringing a speaker to campus," Dina Rosin CM '20 wrote in a message to TSL. "The site explains that the First Amendment protects hate speech. Does this mean the administration thinks it is okay to have hateful speech on our campus?"

On the other hand, some students saw the page as a positive step.

“After the Heather Mac Donald protest, a lot of news outlets questioned whether CMC encourages their students to grapple with viewpoints they don’t agree with,” Mitchell Black CM ‘20 said. “This microsite shows that CMC welcomes such streams of thought so that students can contend with them, agree or disagree with them, and explain why they agree or disagree.”

Benson Bleier CM '18 agreed.

"I agree with CMC’s statement. I think this is important for discourse on campus and to protect freedom of speech and hear opinions from all different backgrounds," he said.