Upholding the Freedom of Expression While Practicing Kindness and Respect

Spring semesters on university campuses are marked by heightened social and political awareness and activities. With Kent State University’s roots as a champion of free speech and student activism, President Todd Diacon is reminding the university community of our commitment to freedom of expression as a core value guiding our work.  

Freedom of speech laws clearly protect the rights of speakers to speak on public university campuses. “The university is obligated to uphold the law, and while doing so, we are committed to doing our best to ensure the safety of our university community members,” Diacon stated.  

“Registered student organizations are free to invite speakers of their choosing,” Diacon noted. “Legally, as a public university, we are not able to constrain the speech of others, no matter how much we disagree with what any particular speaker is saying,” he continued.  

“This is not just a Kent State policy, it is the law of our country as clearly established in numerous judicial decisions,” Diacon said.  

The spirit of advocacy and engagement among college students is often renewed at this time of year, and campuses become a vibrant arena where differing ideas are exchanged, and voices are amplified. On March 14, a registered student group, the May 4 Taskforce, sponsored an on-campus talk by David Hogg, the Parkland shooting survivor who is a gun control and voting rights advocate. On April 16, Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot three men, two of them fatally, and was acquitted in 2021, will speak on the Kent campus at the invitation of the local chapter of Turning Point USA.  

In addition, as a public university, organizations unaffiliated with Kent State can, by law, demonstrate on our campuses if they follow the university’s policy for marches and demonstrations. One such demonstration will occur on April 2 by Created Equal, a well-known anti-abortion organization. 

“As with any speaker or organization that comes to our campuses, the university does not endorse or condone an opinion or point of view, nor does it advocate for any topic the speaker organization might discuss during their visit to our campuses,” Diacon said.  

Earlier this semester, the university launched the Dialogue and Difference: A New Understanding  series. This year-long initiative provides an opportunity for the university community to learn about diverse perspectives and help us better understand each other.  

Diacon noted that Kent State will continue to follow state and federal laws guaranteeing freedom of expression while he also continues to stress another core Kent State value, perhaps the most important of our values, which is to “treat others with kindness and respect.”  


POSTED: Tuesday, March 19, 2024 03:56 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2024 04:41 PM