Hotchkiss Delegation Attends Conference on Freedom of Expression and Open Discourse

Last month, Head of School Craig Bradley led a delegation of Hotchkiss students and faculty members to the University of Chicago’s Conference on Freedom of Expression and Open Discourse in High School. Attendees included Felix Bao ‘21, Ivy Bhandari ‘21, Max Grossman ‘21, along with Rachel Myers, instructor in English and Director of Diversity and Inclusion, and Tom Drake, Director of The Center for Global Understanding and Independent Thinking. 

The central task was to explore ways of adapting the Chicago Principles to secondary schools.

The Hotchkiss delegation recognized that the adaptation of the Chicago Principles requires special consideration in the boarding school environment, including balancing the pursuit of free expression with the needs of emotional development. While free expression in the classroom should be the most open space for free expression, room should still be made for students who are overwhelmed by particular topics to leave the classroom if they feel it necessary. Hotchkiss’s task is to prepare for university life, both in terms of rational discourse in the classroom and in terms of the resilience needed to hear ideas that one might find offensive in the residential environment.

President Robert J. Zimmer was the driver behind the conference and he spent a good deal of time with the participants. Other speakers included: John Boyer, dean of the college; Susan Vasquez, associate vice-president, Office of Civic Engagement; Leila Brammer, director of Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse, and other faculty and administrators of the university. 

During an open session, Myers described the Hotchkiss Community Conversations program, which she organized as director of diversity and inclusion, Myers described these evening gatherings as a means of providing foundational understanding among various identities and an essential part of fostering open expression on controversial issues.

We are grateful to Peter Cunniff ’73, who generously underwrote the delegation’s participation.



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