Monday, September 7, 2020
This semester, I'm teaching Princeton's undergraduate course "Constitutional Interpretation." It's a course that has been offered at the University for more than a hundred years, including by my predecessors as McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Walter F. Murphy, Alpheus T. Mason, and Edward S. Corwin. Many students who have taken the course over the years have gone on to illustrious careers, including in law (a couple of those are sitting on the Supreme Court). I've had the honor of teaching it since Professor Murphy's retirement in the mic-1990s. This time I've placed on the syllabus a statement concerning freedom of speech. I intend to place the statement on the syllabus of all courses I teach going forward. I claim no copyright to the statement and encourage others--in courses of any type and in every field--to use it. It can easily be adapted for use at other colleges and universities. Here it is.
As set forth in Princeton University's Rights, Rules, Responsibilities section 1.1.3, this institution strictly respects the right to free speech of everyone in our community of scholars and learners. That right is sacrosanct in this class and is possessed by faculty and students alike. With the aim of advancing and deepening everyone’s understanding of the issues addressed in the course, students are urged to speak their minds, explore ideas and arguments, play devil’s advocate, and engage in civil but robust discussions. There is no thought or language policing. We expect students to do business in the proper currency of intellectual discourse—a currency consisting of reasons, evidence, and arguments—but no ideas or positions are out of bounds.