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BPC Hosts Conference with Academic Leaders Amidst Free Expression Crisis on College Campuses

Boca Raton, FL – Academic leaders from across the country gathered this week to explore the state of free expression on college campuses and how to foster campus cultures that support the open exchange of ideas, in a conference hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center at Florida Atlantic University.

The conference was led by Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill, director of BPC’s Campus Free Expression Project, and featured speakers from colleges and universities undertaking leadership initiatives to strengthen their campus climates for open intellectual inquiry and engagement.

“We know that colleges and universities are grappling with how best to develop policies that ensure a safe and welcoming environment for robust intellectual exchange for Generation Z students,” said Pfeffer Merrill. “By bringing together campus leaders in developing new policies to protect free expression and viewpoint diversity, BPC aims to assist colleges and universities in equipping students with the skills of respectful disagreement that are so important in our democracy.”

Attendees considered survey data suggesting large segments of both faculty and students are opting for self-censorship to avoid offending others, which many argued is detrimental to colleges’ academic mission.

Roundtable discussions wrestled with how the freedom of honest, academic inquiry can be maintained while protecting values of inclusion and diversity. Participants shared how their campus leaders worked to foster free expression and overcome the negative impact of speakers more intent on provoking than engaging in academic discourse.

“Florida Atlantic was delighted to host BPC’s national convening of a discussion of free expression,” said Bret Danilowicz, FAU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “By learning of effective practices in place at other college campuses, we are now ready to implement strategies for improving the freedom of expression on FAU’s campuses. Like others who attended, FAU is now better able to respond to challenges to free expression in the future.”

Professors and administrators from the following colleges and universities participated in the conference:

  • Auburn University
  • Boston College
  • Carleton College
  • Duke University
  • Florida Atlantic University
  • Florida International University
  • Georgetown University
  • James Madison University
  • Loyola University Maryland
  • New York University
  • Rhodes College
  • Texas Tech University
  • Tulane University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of Dallas
  • University of Richmond
  • University of Vermont
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Wellesley College
  • Xavier University