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President’s Advisory Committee on Free Expression and Institutional Speech

Dear members of the Northwestern community,

Northwestern has a long history as a haven for intellectual exchange and academic freedom. When I first arrived on campus in 2022, I highlighted the importance of engagement across difference, how a diversity of views can spark new discovery, and how freedom of expression is the very foundation of our University.

At my inauguration, I spoke to these values and hosted a vigorous panel on the values of free expression in an increasingly diverse community.

In the months since, worldwide events have sometimes strained our abilities to respectfully debate issues that we hold dear – but also have again laid bare why the concepts of academic freedom and freedom of expression are so important not just to the mission of our great University, but to solving the world’s problems.

Today, I am appointing a committee of distinguished senior faculty to propose to me a statement on free expression that reflects Northwestern’s values. I view the work of the President’s Advisory Committee on Free Expression and Institutional Speech as vital for our community.

The panel consists of some of Northwestern’s preeminent scholars from across disciplines, scholars who will examine the issue from different perspectives and, hopefully, with different viewpoints – the type of intellectual debate that lies at the very core of academic freedom.

I have asked the Advisory Committee to examine what are the boundaries, if any, for free expression and academic freedom in teaching, research and public discourse.

I have also asked Committee members to evaluate under what circumstances, if any, should the University, its officers, academic departments or administrative units make statements on behalf of their constituents about political, social or international matters.

Finally, I have tasked the Committee with considering how our University community might embrace their recommendations as part of our culture.

Chaired by Professor Erin Delaney of the Pritzker School of Law, the Committee consists of: 

  • Henry Bienen, President Emeritus
  • Eli Finkel, Professor of Social Psychology
  • Vicky Kalogera, Daniel L. Linzer Distinguished University Professor and Director of CIERA
  • Toni-Marie Montgomery, Professor and former Dean, Bienen School of Music
  • Gary Saul Morson, Lawrence B. Dumas Professor of the Arts and Humanities
  • Milan Mrksich, Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Peter Slevin, Professor of Journalism
  • Natasha Trethewey, Board of Trustees Professor of English
  • Christopher Udry, Robert E. and Emily King Professor in Economics
  • Mary Zimmerman, Professor and Jaharis Family Foundation Chair in Performance Studies

I would like to thank Professor Delaney and each member of this committee for taking on this challenging, fascinating and incredibly important charge. The Committee will consult widely among various University constituents as it considers these matters. In addition, the Committee will examine the University’s charter, policies and history.

As they conduct their work, they will report their findings and their recommendations to me as we chart a path forward for Northwestern.