At Yale, we believe that the free exchange of ideas is fundamental to the vibrant intellectual life of our community and foundational to deep academic inquiry. The Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale, or the Woodward Report, is the university’s guiding document on free expression. It affirms this value, noting “To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom, for whoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views necessarily also deprives others of the right to listen to those views.”
There are times when the university may be asked to censor controversial speech or discipline a speaker for their speech. Yale’s commitment to free expression means that we do not curtail speech merely due to its causing offense. However, there are certain limits on speech and processes for addressing speech that crosses these limits. Yale has developed in each school’s student code of conduct and, as an overarching university policy, prohibitions against discrimination and harassment consistent with federal and state law. Prohibited behaviors under these policies include speech that meets the definition of harassment or discrimination, including threats of violence, or, under certain circumstances, threats that constitute intimidation or coercion. Yale does not protect speech that disrupts university activities or violates its regulations based on time, place, or manner.
Free expression brings many benefits to our academic community, enabling individuals and groups to give voice to wide-ranging perspectives and ideas. We believe free expression can foster further conversation and allow everyone the ability to exercise their voice. Yet it also can sometimes have difficult and even painful consequences. As a university community, we work to sustain and support members of our community negatively impacted by such speech.
In both challenging and more peaceful times, we encourage our community to extend grace to one another, consider our words carefully, conduct ourselves with decency and respect, and move forward with kindness, empathy, and compassion.
The following resources are intended to be helpful to members of the university community engaged in supporting faculty, students, and staff regarding free expression.