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David Wippman.
Should college presidents weigh in on hotly contested public controversies? In an essay titled “Speaking up about college presidents speaking out” published in The Hill, President David Wippman and his co-author, Cornell American Studies Professor Glenn Altschuler, addressed the question.
“We believe they should, but only on issues that have a direct impact on their campus communities and in ways that protect and promote their commitment to critical thinking, active debate, and the pursuit of truth by students, faculty, and staff,” the authors wrote in their July 31 op-ed. They reviewed the varying positions taken by presidents in preceding decades beginning in WWI and continuing on to the Vietnam War to the present day.

“…[P]residents should consider whether the impact on their campus is both significant and distinct from the impact on society-at-large. Examples include campus free speech, affirmative action, and certain visa and immigration policies,” they continued.

“When the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, we believe it was entirely appropriate for presidents to clarify for their communities what reproductive health services would still be available in the aftermath of the decision.”

They conclude their essay with a quote from the University of Chicago’s Kalven Committee: “…[T]he upside of an institution’s neutrality, and it is by no means inconsiderable, is ‘the fullest freedom for its faculty and students as individuals to participate in political action and social protest.’”

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