Freedom of Speech Memo

The following memo was sent by Mark R. Hamilton, President of the University of Alaska, to the chancellors of the three branches of the university. It is dated March 13, 2001; as a member of the faculty of the U. of Alaska Fairbanks, I received a copy via e-mail shortly thereafter. The text below is by President Hamilton and is as I received it. This web page was posted by Glenn G. Chappell.

TO: E. Lee Gorsuch, Chancellor, University of Alaska Anchorage
      Marshall Lind, Chancellor, University of Alaska Fairbanks
      John Pugh, Chancellor, University of Alaska Southeast

FROM: Mark R. Hamilton, President

DATE: March 13, 2001

Dear Colleagues:

A number of recent events has convinced me that I take the unusual step to state clearly and unambiguously what all of us would take as a given - The University of Alaska acknowledges and espouses the right to freedom of speech.

The recent events I referred to include professors signing a letter to President Clinton urging the preservation of ANWR, the selection of the speaker for the Bartlett lecture series, and the publishing of the poem, "Indian Girls" by Professor Linda McCarriston.

What I want to make clear and unambiguous is that responses to complaints or demands for action regarding constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech CANNOT BE QUALIFIED. Attempts to assuage anger or to demonstrate concern by qualifying our support for free speech serve to cloud what must be a clear message. Noting that, for example, "The University supports the right of free speech, but we intend to check into this matter," or "The University supports the right of free speech, but I have asked Dean X or Provost Y to investigate the circumstances," is unacceptable. There is nothing to "check into," nothing "to investigate."

Opinions expressed by our employees, students, faculty or administrators don't have to be politic or polite. However personally offended we might be, however unfair the association of the University to the opinion might be, I insist that we remain a certain trumpet on this most precious of Constitutional rights.

I am directing you, the Chancellors, to effect wide dissemination of this letter. I would prefer it go forward with your endorsement.

President Hamilton's Memo: Freedom of Speech / Last update: 21 Jun 2001 / Glenn G. Chappell /