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Statement of Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression

Academic freedom and, more generally, freedom of expression are of paramount value in an academic community. Among the central purposes of such a community are acquisition and transmission of knowledge, cultivation of the creative and critical faculties of the human intellect, expression of ideas and emotions through the arts and development of aesthetic sensitivity and appreciation. Academic freedom and freedom of expression are essential to the fullest realization of these purposes, and therefore Smith College must preserve and protect those freedoms. It must do so even when the ideas and values expressed are believed, by some or even many, to be inimical to humane society.

In the college, as in society as a whole, freedom of speech and expression cannot be absolute. For example, speech that is libelous, slanderous, incites to riot or is unlawfully harassing is not constitutionally protected; in addition, speech directed at persons with clear intent to cause substantial injury is not protected by academic freedom. For the School for Social Work, freedom of speech and expression is further informed by the accreditation standards of the Council on Social Work Education and by the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Work.

Within these commonly accepted limits, Smith College endorses the following principles. Members of the Smith community may write about and discuss freely any subject of intellectual inquiry and shall not be subject to censorship, discipline or intimidation. They are entitled to freedom in research and in the publication of results. They are also members of the larger society: when they speak or act as individuals, and not as representatives of Smith College, they shall be free from institutional censorship, discipline or intimidation.

Freedom of speech and expression is the right both of members of the Smith College community and of invited guests. Once members of the Smith community extend an invitation, others may not abridge a speaker’s freedom of expression because they dislike or oppose the speaker, find her or his ideas noxious or perceive the speaker to be associated with policies or practices believed to be erroneous or even evil.

Freedom of speech and expression is the right of opponents of a speaker as well. Opponents may make their views known in a variety of ways so long as they do not thereby interfere with a speaker’s ability to make hers or his known, or with the rights of others to listen.

As revised by the board of trustees, February 22, 1992.

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