How the Faculty Put a Stake in the Heart of Free Speech at Bucknell

Deacon Paul Siewers, Associate Professor of English, Bucknell University
PFS Original Content

Excerpt: Bucknell University’s faculty recently voted down a free-speech motion. It was a ritual slaying. By anonymous vote, professors opted 191 to 31 to prevent any discussion of the motion, by postponing it indefinitely. In doing so, faculty at the highly ranked liberal-arts university in central Pennsylvania sought to put a stake in the heart of what are known as the University of Chicago Principles, which call for universities to allow free speech of all kinds except such “unprotected speech” as threats, harassment, and libel.

 Despite 80-plus other institutions having adopted the Chicago Principles and leading Bucknell alumni supporting the measure, Bucknell faculty members made themselves outliers from their own university’s values, given that its mission statement calls for support of “different cultures and diverse perspectives.” But the Bucknell professors also provided an extreme caricature of what faculty culture in America has become today in the eyes of many: Narrowly ideological, intellectually xenophobic, and passively-aggressively policing others’ views.