Provost statement on the principles of free speech on the IU Bloomington campus

Dear IU Bloomington Community,

This promises to be a year when we are all engaged in difficult conversations. The deadly and hateful events of Charlottesville have left the country and our campus on edge, even as we denounce in the strongest and deepest terms the racism, bigotry, and discredited ideologies held by the Klan and the Nazis who terrorized that city and campus. The Attorney General's disheartening announcement Sept. 5 on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) will challenge us to support our DACA students in every practical and compassionate way we can within the bounds of the law, including through our actions with our own members of Congress. As President McRobbie noted in his statement in response to the DACA announcement:

"We also want to assure all DACA students that we remain fully committed to ensuring a welcoming, safe and civil community for all IU students. As outlined on our DACA @ IU website, IU can and will take several steps to continue supporting all IU students, regardless of personal characteristics or documentation, that are within the bounds of the federal and state laws that bind us as a public institution. The administration's latest announcement also leaves many questions unanswered, and we will make every effort to better understand the decision and how we can continue to help our students. Our university will not waver in its longstanding commitment to the diverse and inclusive environment that is vital to an excellent education."

In short, it will be a challenging year for our community's commitment to values of equality, nondiscrimination, critical thinking, compassion, and freedom of expression. Faculty, staff, and students hold strong views that span a range of positions about many of the issues facing our country, and we expect robust and civil conversations and disagreements to occur on campus. Our faculty and student groups also traditionally invite a variety of speakers to campus, and some will certainly present views that will provoke disagreement, perhaps strong disagreement, and even protest.

As we think through these challenges, I write to remind our community that as a public institution, Indiana University is bound by the Constitution's First Amendment. The First Amendment has, at its core, a deep distrust of the power of any government to restrain speech or to judge ideas dangerous, and a trust in the power of our citizens to assure that truth displaces falsity in a world of open exchange. As a country, the United States has struck a different balance on issues surrounding speech than many other countries, and sometimes First Amendment values feel strongly in tension with values of equality and inclusion, or nondiscrimination principles. As a campus, we will work this semester to open opportunities to explore these constitutional tensions and choices even as we assure that our campus remains a place that protects the expression of diverse and strongly held opinions.

I look forward to these conversations because I trust our community's ability both to support its members, and to listen to each other in difficult conversations. We grow in our critical understanding as we do so. Let's engage each other with compassion, generosity, and creativity. And importantly, let's engage with those with whom we disagree most vehemently with the dignity and clarity that comes from the strength of values that have been tested through critical and moral engagement and deep thinking.

In the meantime, please find below a set of guidelines to help us think about our obligations as community members.


Lauren Robel

General principles

  • As a public institution, Indiana University Bloomington is bound by the requirements of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Indiana Constitution Article 1 Section 9. As a university, we have a distinctive commitment to free inquiry and free expression that guides our teaching and research.
  • As the home and workplace of thousands of faculty, staff, and students, Indiana University Bloomington is committed to the physical safety of its community members and to their right to work and live without disruption.
  • As stewards of public facilities and grounds, Indiana University Bloomington is entrusted by the state with the protection of the campus physical environment.


  • As a public university subject to the requirements of the First Amendment, IU cannot and will not limit speakers or visitors to the university solely on the basis of their points of view or beliefs, nor will IU prohibit the expression of objections to speakers or their points of view. Both are essential parts of an environment of free and open expression. Constitutional protections for freedom of expression require that the university be viewpoint-neutral: that is, that we protect speech, and counter-speech, whether or not university officers or trustees (or other community members) agree with the content of that speech.
  • Indeed, the Constitution protects speech even if we vehemently disagree with it, and even if it is antithetical to our deepest values, such as words that one would consider hateful. There is no constitutional exception for hate speech.
  • With those principles in mind, it follows that the fact that a person is invited to speak at IU does not represent institutional or individual endorsement of that person's views or character.
  • IU may not exclude a speaker solely because of the mere possibility of-or threats of-disruption (the so-called hecklers' veto). However, any such threats may be the basis for additional security requirements, and will be taken into account in IU's overall evaluation of safety.
  • Consistent with the First Amendment, IU may impose reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of speech for the purpose of assuring that the members of our community are able to learn, teach, and conduct research, that the administrative functions of the university supporting our mission can continue, and that invited speakers can speak without deliberate disruption.
    • IU requires that those who wish to invite speakers follow university protocols for the use of IU facilities. If you are a student group unsure of what those procedures are, please contact the Office of Student Life and Learning at . Faculty should work through their department chairs and deans.
    • Neither speakers nor protestors may disrupt the educational, research, or administrative functions or events of the university, nor may they remain without permission in non-public or closed areas of the university, such as assigned offices, studios, classrooms, and similar spaces.
  • IU will make every effort to protect invited speakers, their supporters, and protesters from physical harm or threats of physical harm, without regard to their views or the identity of their sponsors. We will not abide physical violence, threats of physical violence, nor destruction of property, and we prohibit the unauthorized possession or threat of using weapons of any kind on IU property.
  • Consistent with the First Amendment, IU may exclude anyone whose speech includes or incites specific threats of physical violence or destruction of property by the speaker.