Statement on Freedom of Expression
Because Farmingdale State College is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the College community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of Farmingdale State College, the College fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the College community “to discuss any problem that presents itself.”
Of course, the ideas of different members of the College community will often and quite naturally conflict. It is not the proper role of Farmingdale State College to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although Farmingdale State College greatly values civility, and although all members of the campus community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.
The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. Farmingdale State College may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is directly incompatible with the functioning of Farmingdale State College. The College may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt public safety or the ordinary activities of the campus. These are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with Farmingdale’s commitment to a free and open discussion of ideas.
In a word, Farmingdale State College’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the College community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the Farmingdale State College community, not for the College as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the Farmingdale State College community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the College’s educational mission.
As a corollary to Farmingdale State College’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of the College community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of the College community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, Farmingdale State College has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.