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Academic Freedom

Scholars at the University of Utah have all the rights and responsibilities of any other U.S. citizen. Academic freedom and free expression are not abstract concepts at the University of Utah. The university was founded to foster intellectual inquiry, scientific discovery, and generation of new knowledge. These activities can, at times, become targets of controversy and criticism. University administrators, the Academic Senate, the Office of General Counsel, and the rest of the university community exist to defend and protect not only the educational and research activities of faculty, students, and staff, but also the academic freedom and free expression that are essential components of academic work.

University Policy states that “academic freedom in the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge through all media shall be maintained at the University of Utah. Such freedom shall be recognized as a right of all members of the University academic community...whether with or without tenure or continuing appointment, administrative officers, academic staff and other non-faculty academic personnel, and students of the university.”

The U’s speech policy protects the rights of expression and assembly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Utah Constitution: “It is the purpose of these regulations to protect and enhance the free exchange of ideas in the university and on the university campus. The primary function of a university is to discover and disseminate knowledge by means of research and teaching. To fulfill these functions, a free interchange of ideas is necessary.

“It follows that the university must ensure within it the fullest degree of intellectual freedom and protect the opportunity of all members of the university community and their guests to exercise their intellectual freedom and protect their right to communicate with others in the university community."

Institutional Neutrality

Institutional neutrality is a commitment by our university leaders in their official capacity to refrain from taking public positions on political, social, or unsettled issues unless an issue directly affects the core mission, role, or pedagogical objectives of the University. This obligation does not apply to our faculty, staff, or student body who have the right to speak on matters of public concern on their own time and with their own resources. Administrative leaders at the University of Utah acknowledge their role to encourage and promote debates, not to settle them. 

Publicly Addressing Violations of Free Speech

If faculty, staff, or students engage in inappropriate behavior that violates free expression on campus and the law, the University will address the behavior in accordance with its general rules and policy guidelines. Consistent with the Utah Board of Higher Education’s neutrality resolution on freedom of expression, the University will not weigh in on the subject matter of the speech expressed but will publicly communicate to the University community the appropriate way to engage in public speech.