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A statement from President Bernardo regarding syllabi

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University deeply values the tenets of freedom of expression for every member of our community, including all students, faculty and staff. Those First Amendment rights are reinforced in our policies, procedures and practices. Open dialogue, vigorous debate and the free exchange of ideas, as well as the language used to convey these ideas, are at the core of who we are as a higher education institution.

Over the weekend, we became aware that some faculty members, in the interest of fostering a constructive climate for discussion, included language in class syllabi that has been interpreted as abridging students’ free speech rights. We are working with these faculty members to clarify, and in some cases modify, course policies to ensure that students’ free speech rights are recognized and protected. No student will have points docked merely as a result of using terms that may be deemed offensive to some. Blanket restriction of the use of certain terms is not consistent with the values upon which this university is founded.

Free speech and a constructive climate for learning are not incompatible. We aim to cultivate diversity of expression while protecting individual rights and safety.

To this end, we are asking all faculty members to take a moment to review their course policies to ensure that students’ right to freedom of expression is protected along with a safe and productive learning environment.

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