The College of Ethnic Studies’ support for freedom and justice for all peoples is deeply rooted in our highest cultural, sacred and secular values, and in our ethical responsibility as academics. Therefore, we vigorously and unequivocally defend the unqualified, fundamental and inalienable right to free speech and expression for all. This right is legally protected in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and explicitly reaffirmed as academic freedom by various academic organizations, including the American Association of University Professors.
This right is not only invoked when speaking of the mundane, benign or pleasant. In fact, this right is most important and most dear when the ideas expressed by one may be repugnant to another; when the expression disturbs or challenges the views of another; or, particularly when it challenges social norms, privilege or raw power. This freedom, which allows contesting views, provides citizens with the opportunity to elevate human discourse and advance the human condition.
However, with important rights come profound responsibilities; responsibilities that mostly cannot be proscribed by law or policy. Still, exercising the right to free expression is a serious act of exercising power, and, hence, comes with serious responsibilities. For example, one should exercise one’s power through speech to defend and advance one’s personal aspirations, communally shared aspirations or illuminate ideas. One should not do so at the expense of others, especially with the intent to hinder or harm.
This harm could come in the form of simply silencing another; instigating personal, social, professional or material harm against another; or more insidiously contributing to the systematic oppression of a whole group. In cases where speech appears to be used in this harmful manner, the agents of this harmful speech should be resisted and the subject of this harmful speech should be supported.
Application of this statement to current or on-going circumstances