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Faculty Statement

April 09, 2018

  • Copyright Robert M Reynolds

As adopted by the unanimous vote of the Lewis & Clark Law School Faculty, April 2018

Statement of the Lewis & Clark Law School Faculty

As faculty members, we have a profound obligation to educate and support our students, and to do so consistent with our academic values. Recent events at the law school have prompted us to consider how we can better communicate to our students the way in which our dual commitments to inclusion and free speech interrelate.

The law school is committed to both (1) welcoming and empowering students of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and ideologies, including those who have faced barriers to enjoying equal opportunity in our profession, and (2) fostering a robust and free marketplace of ideas in which students will inevitably encounter views they perceive as misguided, offensive, or even hateful. Such views may be confronted with civil engagement and alternative speech, or ignored as unworthy of engagement, but they cannot be subject to attempted disruption or silencing.

Of course, freedom of speech has limits, as evidenced by constitutional doctrines permitting regulation of true threats, fighting words, the time, place, and manner of speech, and some speech to captive audiences. At Lewis & Clark, harassment targeted at specific students that objectively threatens their safety or denies them equal access to the law school’s educational program will find no refuge in the free speech norms protecting the expression of disfavored views in open campus forums.

Some may perceive a tension between the law school warmly welcoming people of all communities and with all life experiences and simultaneously offering to expose students to views they may find distinctly unwelcome or harmful. But we cannot prepare our students for the profession they will be entering if our campus is not open to vigorous debate among people with varying backgrounds and sharply different viewpoints. In short, pluralism, professionalism, and First Amendment values are all essential to our mission, and we as a faculty reaffirm our commitment to each.

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