A Look at Institutional Speech on Contentious Issues

Phillip Goodrich
Bipartisan Policy Center

Excerpt: Colleges and universities frequently utilize forms of institutional speech to communicate their position on social and political issues. However, while institutional speech is a common practice, there is a debate among higher education leaders as to when and why schools should weigh in on certain affairs. Institutional speech is an action taken by the organization—or a branch within—that represents its collective beliefs. On campus, this can include a departmental statement, a campus-wide message, a presidential tweet, the renaming of a building, divestment, or the de-platforming of a speaker.

To grasp the current situation and the on-going debates over institutional speech, it is helpful to look at a previous moment of societal and campus polarization: the 1960s. Although the times have changed, much can be pulled from the actions and byproducts of this era.