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Academic Freedom and Free Speech

 Burruss Hall seen through the trees with the American and Virginia flags in front.
July 11th, 2023 - Burruss Hall through the trees (Photo by Luke Hayes/Virginia Tech)

Virginia Tech Statement on Freedom of Expression and Inquiry

Virginia Tech unequivocally commits to upholding freedom of speech and academic freedom.

Virginia Tech affirms the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, including the right to freedom of speech. The First Amendment requires the university to protect the expression of ideas and opinions, including those that people may find controversial, disagreeable, or offensive. Freedom of speech, like all rights in the Constitution, is not absolute. While most speech is protected by the First Amendment, it does not protect speech or actions that violate the law, such as incitement, defamation, threats, privacy violation, or intellectual property infringement, nor does it protect against unlawful harassment or discrimination. In addition, the First Amendment allows the university to regulate the time, place, and manner of expression. At Virginia Tech, freedom of speech should be exercised in a manner that ensures a learning environment that supports and promotes civil debate and mutual respect across differences.

Academic freedom, free expression, and open inquiry are core principles of higher education. Academic freedom enables scholars to conduct research, teach, speak, and publish within an area of expertise without interference or penalty. Academic freedom is essential to create and disseminate knowledge with the mission of improving the quality of life and the human condition within the Commonwealth of Virginia and throughout the world. Virginia Tech must ensure that all members of the university community can ask questions, listen to others, and learn through exposure to a range of ideas from a diverse community of scholars. Virginia Tech is committed to defending academic freedom and freedom of speech while providing a diverse and inclusive learning and work environment.

Virginia Council of Presidents Statement on Free Expression as the Foundation of Excellence in Higher Education

As presidents of Virginia’s public colleges and universities, we unequivocally support free expression and viewpoint diversity on our campuses. Free expression is the fundamental basis for both academic freedom and for effective teaching and learning inside and outside the classroom. Our member universities and colleges are bound to uphold the First Amendment. We are committed to promoting this constitutional freedom through robust statements and policies that are formulated through shared governance processes and through actions that reflect and reinforce this core foundation of education. We value a scholarly environment that is supported by a diversity of research and intellectual perspectives among our faculty and staff. We pledge to promote and uphold inclusivity, academic freedom, free expression, and an environment that promotes civil discourse across differences. We will protect these principles when others seek to restrict them.