Goshen College Freedom of Speech and Expression Statement

Goshen College values, affirms, and protects the freedom of speech, the freedom of expression and the right to peaceably assemble for any member of the college community. As an institution shaped by Anabaptist-Mennonite faith, we hold as sacred and commit to value, affirm and protect the dignity of every person. These values are deeply connected, even though they may exist in tension, and require ongoing dialogue and discernment as fundamental aspects of our educational mission in all its parts and settings. The purpose of this statement is to provide a context for such dialogue, and to make clear the freedoms and boundaries of expression in the life of the college.

Fostering critical discourse and civic engagement

Fostering the capacity of the college community to engage in critical discourse and deliberation in an effective, responsible and respectful manner is an essential part of the college’s educational mission. The ideas of different members of the college community will often and quite naturally conflict, but it is not the role of the college to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, uncivil or even deeply offensive. Rather, members of the college community should be encouraged to act according to the principle that the best response to ideas that they find offensive is more speech, not censorship. This approach encourages members of the college community to express their views freely, and freely to take issue with views with which they disagree. This statement seeks to enhance and not to compromise the college’s educational mission.

Responsibilities, accountability and exceptions

Such freedoms and rights entail responsibility and accountability for the speech and actions of all members of our campus community, employees and students alike. The college seeks to protect the dignity and security of all members of the college community from those who would seek to use speech or other expressions primarily to deprive others of their freedom to learn, to express their views or to participate in our community. Freedom of speech and expression does not protect speech or behavior against individuals or groups that is discriminatory, slanderous, threatening, intimidating, harassing or that incites violence.

The college also recognizes its responsibility to provide and foster a hospitable and conducive learning environment. Therefore individuals enrolled at or employed by the college are obligated to express their views in ways that do not disrupt classes and academic activities or the normal operations of the college. The college may restrict expression that violates state or federal law or college policies, and violations will be handled through appropriate channels of accountability.

These limited exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression are in addition to the academic freedom of faculty as expressed in greater detail in our policy on faculty rights and professional ethics. It is vitally important that these exceptions not be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the college’s ideals relating to the free and open discussion of ideas.

Responsible Office: Vice President for Student Life and Hispanic Serving Initiatives
Approved by President’s Cabinet: October 2020; reviewed October 2023
Date to be Reviewed: October 2028

Related institutional policies: