University Confirms Launch of Forum of Free Inquiry and Expression and Announces Leadership Appointments

The University announced that the Forum for Free Inquiry and Expression will be launched next fall, with Tom Ginsburg as the inaugural faculty director and Tony Banout as the inaugural executive director.

By Sabrina Chang, Senior News Reporter

The University will launch the Forum for Free Inquiry in the fall of 2023, according to an announcement from President Paul Alivisatos posted on UChicago’s Office of the President website on February 27. 

The Forum will be led by inaugural faculty director Tom Ginsburg, UChicago Leo Spitz Distinguished Service Professor of International Law and Professor of Political Science, and inaugural executive director Tony Banout, who is making his return to the University after serving as senior vice president for Interfaith America, a religious diversity nonprofit.  

This announcement confirms previous reporting by The Maroon regarding the University’s job posting for the “Executive Director of the Center for Freedom of Expression,” which was listed for over two months on before now being filled by Banout.  

The Center, which was officially referred to as the Forum in the new announcement, aims to “expand and enhance the University’s engagement across the constellation of issues related to free inquiry and expression, in collaboration with faculty and the broader University community,” according to the communication. This goal aligns with the Chicago Statement, which was cited on the job listing as a core principle of the Forum.  

Ginsburg joined the University’s faculty in 2008, before which he worked in consulting and provided legal advice to many international organizations, development agencies, and government. He is currently a Professor of International Law and Political Science at the University, as well as a co-director of the Comparative Constitutions Project, research professor at the American Bar Foundation, and member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Ginsburg has been a leading partner in envisioning and developing plans for the Forum, according to Alivisatos’s announcement. 

“I’m very excited to work with Faculty from across the University to help shape the new Forum,” Ginsburg said in a statement to The Maroon. “One of our main goals will be to expand opportunities for students to deepen their own experience and practice. The University has to do this actively, as there are so many forces in society and politics working against people’s ability to express themselves.  Free expression is human right, and it’s an essential part of what makes us human.” 

Tony Banout obtained his Ph.D. from the Divinity School, where he was a Martin Marty Center Junior Fellow and Provost Dissertation Fellow. Before making his return to the University, he served as the senior vice president for Interfaith America, where he led the civic organization in the establishment and implementation of strategies and programs to promote democratic discourse and civil conversation across and beyond higher education.  

Per Alivisatos, Banout has served as a “lifelong advocate for ideological diversity and inclusion in academia.”  

Beyond the appointment of Ginsburg and Banout as leaders of the Forum, no other details on its specific priorities or initiatives were included in the announcement.