The SUNY New Paltz community embraces principles of free speech, recognizes the complexity of issues surrounding this topic, and believes that they require careful and ongoing thought and attention – as a community. As a public university, we are bound to uphold the First Amendment. More broadly, we value the free expression of ideas, including the right of all views – popular or unpopular, liberal, middle-of-the-road, or conservative -- to be voiced. This is critical to our educational mission to prepare graduates to thrive in a democratic society. It is our responsibility to educate students about the fundamental importance of free expression and diverse views and their history in America. It is also our mission to model and teach civility and tolerance for diverse viewpoints.
The College employs policies that provide meaningful opportunities for members of our community to express their views, along with policies that regulate time, place, and manner for the exercise of free speech so that the normal work of the campus is not disrupted. Similarly, the College does not regulate speech based on its content, but has appropriately created content-neutral regulations governing expression on campus.
The College recognizes that some speech contributes to the disenfranchisement and marginalization of some community members, especially those who may feel they do not have the same privilege or opportunity as others to exercise their free speech rights. Nonetheless, the courts have routinely deemed campus “hate speech codes” as unconstitutional. Thus, hurtful, upsetting, or offensive speech, including hate speech, is still protected provided it does not cross the line into intimidation or threat. As a result, the College supports “more speech” as an appropriate response to such expression. Thus, the College encourages community members to speak out about speech they find to be offensive or hateful. Our community should expect campus leaders to exercise their own free speech rights in responding to extreme speech acts, while recognizing that leadership cannot respond to all speech that some consider offensive. The College values practices that increase awareness among students and faculty about the impact that words and expressions may have, so that we sustain a respectful environment for teaching and learning. Our support for free speech does not mean that the institution agrees with all views expressed or that the College affords moral equivalency to all views.
We condemn and will continue to condemn and take appropriate action against individuals who engage in acts of hatred, bigotry, racism, intolerance, and violence on our campus. Harassment and true threats are not protected by the First Amendment.