Press Releases | Freedom of Expression

ACTA Applauds VA Gov. Terry McAuliffe For Underscoring Importance of Free Speech on College Campuses

April 9, 2014

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni today praised Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the state’s legislature for sending a message to the state’s public universities: Campuses should foster free speech, not restrict it. House Bill 258, signed by the governor this week, prohibits public colleges “from imposing restrictions on time, place, and manner of student speech that occurs in the outdoor areas of the institution’s campus.”

ACTA believes the university should be a place where diverse views can be expressed freely. In a letter last year to Virginia’s Boards of Visitors and more than 15,000 other trustees around the country, ACTA called on trustees to eliminate speech codes and to be proactive in their protection of intellectual diversity on campuses. 

“If Virginia higher education wants to foster a vibrant intellectual climate, it must unfailingly encourage free speech in its fullest form,” said ACTA president Anne D. Neal. “University governing boards should now follow the governor and legislature and step up to the plate to assess the state of free speech on campus and take all steps necessary to expand the free exchange of ideas and principled protection of intellectual freedom.”

“The very essence of higher education should be a robust atmosphere of unfettered debate and discussion—both inside and outside the classroom,” said Dr. Michael Poliakoff, ACTA vice president of policy. “Speech codes are an affront to academic freedom and create a chilling environment where students can be punished for stances that may differ from those of their classmates or professors.”

Today, “free speech zones”—or designated areas where students are allowed to express themselves—exist at colleges across the country as a shameful substitute for a free exchange of ideas. ACTA’s report “Free to Teach, Free to Learn” further examines academic freedom in higher education and outlines steps trustees must take to ensure the First Amendment freedoms necessary for a rich liberal education.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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