Following the U.S. House Committee on Education & the Workforce hearing on “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism,” University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill signaled in a video posted to X her willingness to abandon any pretense of the university’s commitment to free expression. “For decades, under multiple Penn presidents and consistent with most universities, Penn’s policies have been guided by the Constitution and the law,” professed Magill. But now, she continued, the university “must initiate a serious and careful look at our policies,” a process which she said will start “immediately.”
Speech codes depend for their very existence on the exercise of double standards. Though today speech restrictions may intend to protect Jewish students, there is no telling how these restrictions will apply in the future. Such codes inherently assume certain viewpoints are permissible and others are not. While these codes may protect groups aligned with those currently in power, they will chill the speech of dissenters.
Were Penn to retreat from constitutional principles that protect expressive rights, university administrators would inevitably make arbitrary, political decisions about who may speak and what they may say on campus.
That result would undoubtedly compromise the knowledge-generating process free expression enables and for which universities exist.
Join us in reminding Penn’s Board of Trustees that the solution to the current conflict is not to expand the use of speech codes so that they apply in more cases—it's to eliminate these codes and consistently defend protected speech for all.