Students and Faculty Speak Out on the Free Exchange of Ideas in Pennsylvania Colleges and Universities
Higher education prepares the next generation of leaders in Pennsylvania. It prepares students for the real world, making sure they're ready to participate fully as citizens and to contribute to the state of Pennsylvania. It trains them to think of innovative solutions to public policy problems, business problems, scientific questions and situations in their own communities. It instills them with civic values. It prepares them to deal with disagreement constructively, listening to and debating with those whose opinions differ from theirs.
These goals are stated in the mission of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education:
At its core, the mission of the System is to increase the intellectual wealth of the Commonwealth, to prepare students at all levels for personal and professional success in their lives, and to contribute to the economic, social, and cultural development of Pennsylvania's communities, the Commonwealth, and the nation. Similarly, the core values that underlie plans, policies, and decisions of the System have remained consistent:
- Stimulating intellectual growth by promoting teaching and learning as well as creativity and scholarship;
- Developing and energizing the personal commitment of students, faculty, and staff
- for contributive citizenship, global awareness, and social responsibility;
- Promoting diversity as a key element in the intellectual and interpersonal development of members of the University and extended communities;
- Applying the knowledge and experience gathered within the universities to enhance the social and economic well-being of the Commonwealth;
- Practicing effective stewardship of public funds, private contributions, and tuition revenues in pursuing the System's public mission; and
- Advocating for the unique role of public higher education in contributing to the
- life of the Commonwealth and responding to its needs.
Approved by the Board of Governors
These are important goals, and at their heart is a free exchange of ideas on campus. Students confronted with new ideas, controversial problems and creative solutions learn in a way that develops ingenuity and leadership, which can be applied to the problems that plague Pennsylvania's businesses and governments. Unfettered debate is essential, and policies that actually restrict free speech or that discourage the full spectrum of new, creative and challenging ideas have no place in successful Pennsylvania classrooms.
Faculty must feel able to bring up new and sometimes controversial topics and ideas in order to challenge students to learn, analyze, debate and think for themselves. Students need an education that challenges them to become critical thinkers, to become people who come up with new ideas and analyses.
Free Exchange on Campus is a broad coalition of student, faculty and free speech organizations committed to advocating for the rights of students and faculty to hear and express a full range of ideas unencumbered by political or ideological interference and restriction. This spring, we spoke with students and faculty across Pennsylvania to discover how some of our best teachers teach, and how some of our brightest students study. We found that students learn best and faculty teach best when they have access to a full free exchange of ideas. What follows is a sampling of the responses we received.