The Office of the President

Free Speech on Campus: A Resource Guide

The following resources give an overview of the main issues and controversies concerning free speech on college campuses. Also included are links to SUNY New Paltz policies relevant to speech on campus.


Trigger warnings, Microaggressions, Safe Spaces and Free Speech

“Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.”

The Coddling of the American Mind, Jonathan Haidt, The Atlantic.

 “Full of robust dialogue, safe spaces are not a bubble-wrapped echo chamber, but places where ‘civility and mutual respect’ actually matter.”

I’m a Black UChicago graduate. Safe spaces got me through college, Cameron Okeke, Vox.

“Here's a look at how professors view [trigger] warnings — and at how widespread they really are.”

A Brief Guide to the Battle Over Trigger Warnings, The Chronicle of Higher Education

“None of the students called for “trigger warnings” to be placed on any of the books or articles on the course syllabus...”

Meanwhile, Back On Most Campuses, Eyal Press, The American Prospect


Campus Demonstrations and Free Speech

“I am the Middlebury College professor who ended up with whiplash and a concussion for having the audacity to engage with the ideas of Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.”

Understanding the Angry Mob at Middlebury That Gave Me a Concussion, Allison Stanger, The New York Times

“True ideas need testing by false ones, lest they become mere prejudices and thoughtless slogans. Free speech is a sacred right, and it needs protecting, now more than ever.

Smothering Speech at Middlebury, The Editorial Board, The New York Times

“Addressing campus speakers, a number of whom have been disinvited following student protests in recent years, PEN says that invitations should stand, once made. Threats of violence, even, shouldn’t lead to the withdrawal of invitations following controversy, it says, except in the most extreme cases. Protesters should have an opportunity to make themselves heard but shouldn’t shut down or prevent others from hearing the guest.”

Middle Ground on Campus Speech, Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed

“Recent incidents at DePaul and UC Irvine raise the question of what obligations a college has to make sure that protesters -- while objecting to an event -- can't shut it down or block its ideas from being heard.”

When Protests Obstruct Free Speech, Jonathan Haidt, Inside Higher Ed


Intellectual diversity on campus

“In recent years, there has been a vigorous cottage industry of websites and publications (most but not all on the political right) trying to generate controversy about college professors who say or believe things outside the rather narrow mainstream of public opinion”

Academic Ethics: Defending Faculty Speech, Brian Leiter, The Chronicle Of Higher Education

“The moral of the recent melee at Middlebury College, where students shouted down and chased away a controversial social scientist, isn’t just about free speech, though that’s the rubric under which the ugly incident has been tucked. It’s about emotional coddling. It’s about intellectual impoverishment.”

The Dangerous Safety of College, Frank Bruni, The New York Times

“The stakes involve not just fairness to conservatives or evangelical Christians, not just whether progressives will be true to their own values, not just the benefits that come from diversity (and diversity of thought is arguably among the most important kinds), but also the quality of education itself. When perspectives are unrepresented in discussions, when some kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table, classrooms become echo chambers rather than sounding boards — and we all lose.”

A Confession of Liberal Intolerance, Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times.

“There is agreement on both the political left and right that a majority of college professors in the United States are liberal or left-of-center. But do liberals stifle free speech — particularly that of political and social conservatives — on college campuses?”

Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate: Do Liberals Stifle Intellectual Diversity on the College Campus? Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times.
(the transcript can be found here)


The rights of journalists and citizen journalists in covering campus events and protests

 “College campuses are alive with activism. Recent weeks have seen students assemble on quads and in academic buildings to condemn racism, debate free-expression principles, make demands of administrators—and, in many cases, try to place restrictions on journalists trying to document these protests, or turn them away entirely.” 

Examining a journalist’s right of access to college and university campuses, Columbia Journalism Review

“I am a person of color and a Muslim. That’s a double whammy when it comes to representation in the media. But before becoming an assistant professor of journalism, I was a full-time journalist for 15 years. I traveled the globe and have seen first-hand how the same story can be shifted to fit corporate agendas and personal biases. I have seen how reporters of color can be steamrolled in a newsroom. I teach my journalism students about it in class. I warn against the dangers of it and how they can fight it. But I also recognize that the rights of the press have to be protected.”

The Fallacy of “Safe Spaces” on College Campuses, MediaShift


At SUNY New Paltz:

“The abrupt cancellation of a debate featuring speakers with opposing views has spurred campus-wide discussion on the issue of political correctness.”

Abrupt Debate Cancellation Sparks Discussion Across Campus, The New Paltz Oracle

“A day after canceling a debate featuring a man branded as anti-gay by a hate group watchdog, SUNY New Paltz is now looking to hold the event after all to show its commitment to free speech.”

After cancelling debate, SUNY New Paltz looks to reschedule event, Times Herald-Record

President Christian’s spring and fall 2016 messages about free speech on campus

October 20, 2016 media and politics debate event.


Campus Resources:

Student Handbook

Affirmative Action: Anti-Harassment Policy at SUNY New Paltz

Student Events Policy

SUNY Policy on the Maintenance of Public Order

SUNY 2016 Memo Regarding Political Campaign Activity


Additional Resources

American Civil Liberties Union

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

National Coalition Against Censorship