Our commitment to protect speech
April 7, 2023
Dear Great Danes:
As a public university, we have a constitutional obligation to protect speech, even when that speech fundamentally conflicts with our core values. As one of the most diverse public research institutions in the nation, we are equally committed to fostering an environment in which all students feel safe and included – and that the right to protest is also protected.
These two central parts of our identity need not exist in conflict.
We expect members of our community to be able to voice their views in a manner that promotes dialogue and honors UAlbany’s commitment to freedom of expression. This is especially important when it involves speech that members of our community find offensive or objectionable, including debate and discourse of different or opposing perspectives.
We can engage constructively with ideas we disagree with – or we can choose not to engage at all and deny those who might wish to provoke us the opportunity and satisfaction. What we cannot do is deny others the right to speak. Disrupting an event — any event — is unacceptable.
All recognized student organizations are entitled to reserve space on campus, invite guest speakers, and host their events without interference. Similarly, outside organizations are entitled by law to come to our campus and use our Designated Public Forum.
To be clear, the fact that the law requires the University to protect speech doesn’t mean that UAlbany endorses the speakers’ worldview. We know who we are and what makes this place special. We are a community that thrives on the diversity of its people, faiths and ideas. We unequivocally reject all forms of hate and bias, and we are committed to fostering a culture in which everyone is and feels welcome every single day.
We expect that on a college campus with a diversity of views, and a duty to allow free speech, there will be many occasions that members of our community will disagree, sometimes vehemently, with the speaker or the hosting organization. We encourage you to visit the University’s freedom of speech resources to familiarize yourself with our obligations as a public university and our collective responsibilities as engaged citizens.
Michael N. Christakis, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs
Chief Diversity Officer
& Associate Vice President