Yale’s Free Speech Principles

The Woodward Report

In 1974, the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale published the Woodward Report, a document that established Yale’s free speech principles for the first time in the university’s history. 

 

The committee was created by then President of Yale Kingman Brewster, Jr. following several incidents where speakers were disinvited from campus. The intellectual climate on Yale’s campus was such that the Yale College Faculty passed a resolution requesting Brewster “appoint a faculty commission to examine the condition of free expression, peaceful dissent, mutual respect and tolerance at Yale, to draft recommendations for any measures it may deem necessary for the maintenance of those principles, and to report to the faculties of the University…”

 

Read the full report here.

 

Context around the creation of the committee and the drafting of the Woodward Report is available here.

 

Sign a petition calling on Yale to recommit to the free speech principles of the Woodward Report here.

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Highlights

“The history of intellectual growth and discovery clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.”

 

“To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom, for whoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views necessarily also deprives others of the right to listen to those views.” 

 

“We take a chance, as the First Amendment takes a chance, when we commit ourselves to the idea that the results of free expression are to the general benefit in the long run, however unpleasant they may appear at the time.” 

 

“We value freedom of expression precisely because it provides a forum for the new, the provocative, the disturbing, and the unorthodox.”

 

“Above all, every member of the university has an obligation to permit free expression in the university.”

The State of Free Speech at Yale

National Student Survey Data

50% of undergraduate students say they have often felt intimidated in sharing their ideas, opinions, or beliefs in the classroom because they are different from those of their professors or classmates.

 

40% of undergraduate students say they believe it is appropriate to shout down or disrupt an on-campus speaker with whom they disagree.

 

36% of undergraduate students believe violence can be justified to prevent a person from using hate speech or making racially charged comments. 

 

37% believe “anything that is derogatory towards a certain person or group is hate speech, even if it was made as joke or was unintentional.”

 

Read all of our past annual surveys here.

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Yale Student Comments

 

“No matter your political standing, it is quite apparent that college campuses have become especially politically intolerant. Liberal views are not only the norm, but the expected norm, and any deviation from it is not permitted.” 

“There are certain areas of political thought that are considered ‘okay’ to discuss freely and openly; and other areas that are not to be spoken of or spoken against. The very nature of choosing which political thoughts or opinions are justified in discussing is, in itself, filtering and excluding free thought and expression.”

 

“Campus culture is still one of censorship and shaming.”

 

“Yale’s current intellectual and political campus is that of a hyper woke indoctrination. Everything is looked at through the lens of identity rather than merit of argument or character.”

 

“In one word, stifling. It’s not enough to be neutral, one is required to actively agree with whatever the latest political trend is or be considered a traitor.”

 

“At the law school, people work on the assumption that any views even at the center, much less right of center, are shameful and harmful to society. The general atmosphere is one in which people openly disdain ideas they disagree with. They want to suppress them, not engage with them.”

Articles

 

Libby Snowden – FIRE – Neither lux nor veritas: Yale pairs speech-protective policies with a culture of intolerance – 7/28/22

 

Stanley Kurtz – National Review - How to Discipline the Yale Law School Shout-Down – 3/23/22

 

Jordan Howell - FIRE - Court filing: Yale’s lawyers make surprising claims about the school’s academic freedom promises – 10/7/21

 

Lily Rogers – FIRE - What ever happened to the Woodward Report? – 8/10/18

José Cabranes – Yale Law and Policy Review - For Freedom of Expression, For Due Process, and For Yale: The Emerging Threat to Academic Freedom at a Great University – 1/13/17

 

Steven Benner (student Woodward Report signatory) – Yale Daily News - BENNER: The Woodward Report today – 12/3/15

President Peter Salovey – The Freshman Address - Free Speech at Yale – 8/22/14

 

Video

 

December 2021 - God and Man at Yale Today: Faculty and Student Perspectives

 

December 2021 - Can Alumni and Trustees Rescue the American University?

 

October 2021 - What is Happening to Free Speech at Yale Law School?

 

June 2017 Panel Discussion on The State of Free Speech and the Intellectual Climate on Campus

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