Charles Koch Foundation Statement on University of Wisconsin Free Speech Developments

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse chancellor Joe Gow is reportedly fielding criticism and facing a financial audit for inviting an adult film star to speak on campus during the school’s free speech week this semester.

“Universities enable individual and social progress through an open exchange of experiences and ideas—even and especially when grappling with concepts that make us uncomfortable,” said Casey Mattox, Senior Fellow for Free Speech and Toleration at the Charles Koch Institute. “Reprimanding scholars or university leaders for erring on the side of the free exchange of ideas works against that academic ideal. Opponents of Chancellor Gow’s now demonstrated commitment to free speech should respond by inviting in speakers with opposing views.”

The Charles Koch Foundation supports schools and scholars providing students with environments and opportunities to learn to peacefully and productively engage with different and sometimes difficult topics. A sampling of supported projects include:

  • University of Wisconsin-Stout faculty facilitating discussion and research on important civil liberty issues through events and projects at 21 colleges and universities throughout the state;
  • A Wiley College forensics coach and professor creating an Historically Black Colleges and Universities Speech and Debate League; and
  • The Poynter Institute expanding programs to support student journalists helping their campuses navigate challenging issues.

The Foundation welcomes additional proposals to advance knowledge on this critical topic.

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