March 21, 2019

Dear students, faculty, staff and friends:

Today, President Trump signed an executive order regarding freedom of speech on our nation’s college campuses.

The University of Illinois System clearly staked its position in December 2017 when it issued a set of guiding principles on three pressing issues facing campuses across the country, including the ongoing debate over First Amendment rights.

The guiding principles reaffirm the U of I System’s bedrock commitment to free speech in a concise, forthright statement developed through a five-month process that included collaboration among more than 200 key stakeholders across our three universities.

“An unyielding allegiance to freedom of speech – even controversial, contentious, and unpopular speech – is indispensable to developing the analytical and communication skills of our students and empowering all members of our campus communities to be active and informed citizens,” the guiding principles document declares. “We are committed to the open exchange of competing ideas, perspectives, and values – a founding principle that built our nation – and to making the U of I System’s own distinctive institutional voice part of these productive dialogues.”

But academic excellence also requires an environment of mutual respect, and the system will “vigorously and even-handedly protect … against conduct that falls outside the First Amendment” to ensure a safe and robust exchange of viewpoints, the statement says.

We will review the executive order to ensure it is in keeping with our guiding principles, which were created through a thoughtful and inclusive process rooted in the core values that have carried the system to its place as a global leader in education and discovery.

The principles we adopted then and continue to follow now help ensure that each of our universities fosters an inclusive, welcoming campus climate that promotes an open exchange of divergent ideas and develops new generations of leaders.

In addition to free speech on campus, the guiding principles document also addresses the topics of civic engagement, and globalization and immigration. The document and a news release sent when it was announced may be found here.

Thank you for your dedication and loyalty to our three great universities.


Tim Killeen
President, University of Illinois System

Barbara J. Wilson
Executive Vice President/Vice President for Academic Affairs

Robert J. Jones
Chancellor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Michael D. Amiridis
Chancellor, University of Illinois at Chicago

Susan J. Koch
Chancellor, University of Illinois at Springfield

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