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Freedom of Speech

SUNY Plattsburgh is, first and foremost, an institution of higher learning and teaching committed to serving the needs of society. Our campus community reflects and is a part of a society comprising all races, creeds, and social circumstances.

We embrace the principles of free speech, recognize the complexity of issues surrounding this topic, and believe they require careful and ongoing thought and attention as a community. Importantly, we recognize that free speech rights come with responsibilities.

As a public university, we are bound to uphold the First Amendment. Thus, hateful, hurtful, upsetting, or offensive speech, including hate speech, is protected, provided that it does not cross the line into hate crimes, harassment, assault, or speech that is intended and likely to incite imminent violence or that constitutes a true threat.

More Speech and Exercising First Amendment Rights

However, the college understands systemic inequalities contribute to the marginalization of some members of our community, especially those who may feel they do not have the same privilege or opportunity as others to exercise their free speech rights. As a result, the college supports “more speech” as an appropriate response to such expression. Thus, the college encourages community members to speak out about speech they find to be offensive or hateful.

Our community should expect campus leaders to exercise their own First Amendment Rights in responding to extreme speech acts, while recognizing that leadership cannot respond to all speech that some consider offensive. The college values practices that increase awareness among students and faculty about the impact that words and expressions may have, so that we sustain a respectful environment for teaching and learning. Our support for free speech does not mean that the institution agrees with all views expressed or that the college affords moral equivalency to all views.

Free Speech and Responsibility

We value the free expression of ideas, including the right of all views, popular and unpopular, to be voiced. We are committed to free speech and acknowledge the responsibility that comes with it. This is critical to our educational mission to prepare graduates to thrive in a democratic society. It is our responsibility to educate students about the fundamental importance of free expression and diverse views and their history in the United States. It is also our mission to model and teach civility and respect for diverse viewpoints.

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