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UVA and President Sullivan on Free Speech

President Sullivan speaking at the 99th annual conference of the American Council on Education earlier this year in Washington D.C.

President Sullivan speaking at the 99th annual conference of the American Council on Education earlier this year in Washington D.C. (Video capture courtesy of American Council on Education)

December 7, 2017

UVA is one of only thirty-two public colleges and universities in the United States to earn the highest, “green light” rating for free speech on campus from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

FIRE — a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization — describes “green light institutions” as those “whose policies nominally protect free speech.” UVA earned this distinction in 2010 after eliminating speech codes, making this one of the first major accomplishments of President Sullivan’s leadership tenure.

"Within three months of taking office, President Sullivan has overseen the transformation of UVA from a school that earned FIRE’s worst ‘red light’ rating for restricting protected speech to our highest ‘green light’ rating," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said at the time. “We hope that more colleges will follow UVA’s sterling example and reform their codes to protect free speech."

In the years since, President Sullivan has spoken and written frequently in support of free speech.

Earlier this year, at the 99th annual conference of the American Council on Education in Washington D.C., President Sullivan delivered an argument for supporting freedom of speech on college campuses. The full, prepared text of Sullivan’s speech, “When the Middle Ground is the High Ground: Free Speech and the University,” is available via UVA Today. A video of the speech is also available via YouTube.

In October, she also spoke about fostering free speech on campuses at the Mid-Atlantic College Newspaper Conference — a gathering of student journalists sponsored by The Cavalier Daily — and at the Contemporary Club of Albemarle — a local lecture club promoting interest in literature, art, and contemporary thought.

“The free-speech debate shows us one thing for sure: our colleges and universities need to produce graduates who are strong critical thinkers but also civil human beings, capable of listening to all sides of an argument before drawing conclusions, but also unafraid to speak out and express their own views,” President Sullivan said when speaking to the Contemporary Club.

Earlier this week, President Sullivan participated in a free-speech panel discussion with Beverley Hogan, president of Tougaloo College, and moderated by Jon Alger, president of James Madison University, at the annual meeting of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). SACSOC is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions, including UVA, in the southern states.

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