University Planning Center for Freedom of Expression

The University has not publicly announced plans for the Center, though a job listing for an executive director has been online since last month.


Camelia Malkami

Hull Gate from the Joseph Regenstein Library.

By Kati Langille

A job posting for an executive director of the unannounced Center for Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago has been on for at least a month now.

The posting, which seeks an executive director who would be an “entrepreneurial, collaborative, and strategic leader,” sheds light on the University’s plans for an as-yet-to-be-announced center.

The principal aims for a potential Center for Freedom of Expression, as stated in the posting, are:

A screenshot of the University's job posting for the Executive Director of the Center for Freedom of Expression.
A screenshot of the University’s job posting for the Executive Director of the Center for Freedom of Expression.
  1. “To enrich the experience of our students by modeling free expression and open inquiry, and by developing skills for meaningful and effective engagement
  2. To deepen our understanding of free expression, through a multi-disciplinary research program
  3. To engage and further develop a network of leaders who champion the principles of free expression and foster opportunities in their own organizations to understand and advance free expression
  4. To improve the quality of the higher education environment by creating a broad framework, including curricula and materials rooted in the Chicago Principles, that promotes free expression
  5. To serve as a resource for other institutions that are confronting challenges to free expression and open discourse”

The post goes on to state that the Center for Freedom of Expression will use case studies to look at the practical application of freedom of expression. The University also wants the center to host guest speakers, to be sponsored by donors, and to run summer sessions for 7th–12th grade students. In addition, there are plans to have free expression bootcamps and training programs for educators, nonprofit organizations, and artists.

The University also plans for the Center to have a global reach, noting on the job listing that “the center will disseminate its ideas, work, and events through multiple channels: essays and opinion pieces; digital media, including speaker and event videos and a regular podcast series; and potentially a journal dedicated to moderating conflicting ideas and promoting open discourse.”

The Chicago Statement, also referred to as the Chicago Principles, is cited on the listing as a core principle of the proposed center, though no further information about its philosophy is included.

The basic premise of the Principles, which were created in 2015, guarantees “all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn,” making allowances for instances of violent threats and harassment to be reported and their perpetrators punished.

In a statement sent to The Maroon, the University wrote that plans for the Center for Freedom of Expression were still under development.

“Faculty members at the University have been in discussions to develop ambitious ways to support and advance the longstanding institutional priority of free expression. This work is ongoing, and many details have not been determined, including the final name for such an effort and its specific priorities. The position that has been posted is intended to provide additional leadership support for this work as it develops. We look forward to sharing additional details in the following months.”

Notably, the University did not respond to The Maroon’s question on whether donors would be able to influence the selection of speakers or staff at the center.