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The Student Committee on Undergraduate Education released a statement affirming the Faculty Senate resolution supporting academic freedom and open expression.

Credit: Adam Bennett

The Student Committee on Undergraduate Education committed to institutionalizing open expression protections, becoming the first branch of student government to issue a public statement on academic freedom since the University’s leadership crisis began last fall.

In a Feb. 27 statement published on its website and Instagram, SCUE affirmed the principles of a Faculty Senate resolution passed in January on behalf of University faculty. The faculty resolution, which was passed unanimously, expressed support for academic freedom, faculty governance, and open expression.

“In the current campus climate, we have observed repeated challenges to freedom of expression,” SCUE’s statement read. “In order to foster a more inclusive environment, we must refrain from conducting ourselves in a manner that threatens the academic mission of our University.”

Noting its identity as the academic policy arm of Penn’s student government, SCUE said that freedom of expression plays an important role in intellectual discourse and the overall academic atmosphere at Penn. In its statement, SCUE also reflected on the boundaries of open expression and condemned the use of speech to harass, threaten, or intimidate others within the community.

“After seeing the Faculty Senate’s unanimous resolution, we decided to affirm the principles that they enumerated, as we see them as fitting within the purview of SCUE’s mission,” College junior and SCUE External Chair Michelle Wen wrote to The Daily Pennsylvanian, explaining that SCUE wanted to add a student perspective in support.

“While our primary audience is the student body at large, we also see the statement as a vehicle through which we can share our perspectives on this topic with administrators,” Wen wrote of SCUE’s decision to express support for open expression.

SCUE releases a White Paper every five years to recommend policy changes to administrators — with past White Papers resulting in the creation of fall break, coeducation in the College, and pass/fail courses. In anticipation of SCUE's 2025 White Paper, the committee is exploring ways to institutionalize protections for open expression to enrich the academic environment at Penn.

Wen wrote that the statement was developed through comprehensive discussions and workshops among SCUE members.

She wrote that a small subcommittee took the body's perspective and created a draft statement following a broad discussion among members. This draft was then refined during a workshop in an all-body meeting, and a finalized statement was prepared for voting on Feb. 25. 

SCUE also plans to conduct a focus group on open expression as part of its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Project, according to Wen. This initiative will contribute to the upcoming 2025 White Paper, focusing on the role of productive dialogue in undergraduate education. 

The focus group, which Wen wrote is set to take place after spring break, is part of SCUE's ongoing efforts to foster a supportive academic community at Penn.