Higher Education

Brandon Dutcher | December 28, 2022

Is OU neutral?

Brandon Dutcher

The University of Oklahoma regents recently voted to adopt the Chicago Statement on freedom of expression. And while that’s a great first step, writes OCPA president Jonathan Small, “OU officials can do more.”

He recommends that OU also adopt the University of Chicago’s Kalven Report, “which recognizes that a university should remain neutral on social and political issues. The Kalven Report recognizes that ‘the mission of the university is the discovery, improvement, and dissemination of knowledge’—not the pursuit of so-called social justice.”

Our OCPA colleague Andrew Spiropoulos agrees: the Chicago Statement is an important first step, but OU needs to do more.

“OU’s formal adoption of these principles is especially significant because, in recent years, the university administration has taken several actions that many believe violate the commitment embodied in the Chicago Statement,” Spiropoulos writes.

The university, for example, has removed faculty from the classroom for speech that offended students and forced students from campus for offensive speech that was likely protected by the First Amendment. It would be very good news indeed if the university will reverse course and commit itself to the principles of free inquiry and expression.

But this promise can only be considered genuine if those who run the university both demonstrate that they understand the principles of the new policy and at least acknowledge that their past actions have caused concern. Judging from the statements of OU’s leaders, it is reasonable to worry whether or not the university, when the inevitable disputes arise, will keep its word. OU’s president, for example, at the meeting in which the Chicago Statement was adopted, insisted that the new policy was consistent with the university’s existing commitment to the progressive principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This assertion is especially concerning because the university’s problematic past decisions were motivated by its professed desire to foster a particular understanding of diversity and inclusion.

But even more disturbing than university leaders’ refusal to admit the need for reform is that their statements demonstrate that they neither understand nor adhere to the underlying ideas that ground intellectual freedom. In addition to the principles contained in the Chicago Statement, the University of Chicago also adheres to the additional principle, indispensable to free inquiry, that the university as an institution may never take sides on any political controversy. Only if the university remains neutral on the questions that divide us can it guarantee that all sides of a debate will be heard.

The proper understanding of equality and diversity is among the most important and debated questions of our time. Can anyone look at what our university leaders are saying and conclude they are not taking sides?

To ask the question is to answer it.

At a time when red-state policymakers in Florida and Texas are starting to get serious, it’s time for Oklahoma lawmakers to do likewise.

[For more articles about higher education in Oklahoma, visit]

Brandon Dutcher Senior Vice President

Brandon Dutcher

Senior Vice President

Brandon Dutcher is OCPA’s senior vice president. Originally an OCPA board member, he joined the staff in 1995. Dutcher received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Oklahoma. He received a master’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public policy from Regent University. Dutcher is listed in the Heritage Foundation Guide to Public Policy Experts, and is editor of the book Oklahoma Policy Blueprint, which was praised by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman as “thorough, well-informed, and highly sophisticated.” His award-winning articles have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, WORLD magazine,,, The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, and 200 newspapers throughout Oklahoma and the U.S. He and his wife, Susie, have six children and live in Edmond.

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