Dean’s Message: Freedom of Expression at Berkeley Law

From: Dean Erwin Chemerinsky
Date: August 28, 2023

Dear Law School Community,

One of the great strengths of this campus is its commitment to freedom of speech. Berkeley was the home of the free speech movement of the 1960s. Like the rest of this campus, Berkeley Law has a deep and long tradition of protecting freedom of expression. As we begin a new academic year, I thought it important to reaffirm this commitment and restate our policies.

Our goal is to be a place where all ideas and views can be expressed. The First Amendment does not allow us to exclude any viewpoint and I believe that it is crucial that universities be places were all ideas can be voiced and discussed. At times, this may mean that there can be expression of views that we dislike or even find offensive. But I long have believed that the only way my speech can be free tomorrow is to support protection for speech that I dislike today. I also am hopeful that there is a benefit in hearing views different from our own, though it can be unsettling and even painful. As lawyers, we must be prepared to answer the opposing arguments and our thinking inevitably is sharpened by hearing other positions.

The Law School has an “all-comers” policy, which means that every student group must allow any student to join and all student group organized events must be open to all students. This is important to being an environment where all can feel included and that they belong.

Disruption of speakers and events will not be tolerated. There were unfortunate instances in the last couple of years at other law schools where students disrupted events so that speakers could not be heard. That is a violation of the Berkeley Law’s policies and such behavior will be a basis for student discipline. The First Amendment does not protect a right to use speech to silence others. The appropriate response to an objectionable speaker is to engage in non-disruptive protests and to invite your own speakers.

I would conclude by simply stating that just because there is a right to say something doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be said. I hope that as we choose what to say, we always will be sensitive to the feelings and sensibilities of others. It is inevitable that sometimes there will be disagreements among us, even intense ones, but I hope we always will treat one another with tolerance, respect, and kindness.


Erwin Chemerinsky

Dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law
University of California, Berkeley School of Law


This message was sent to all students, staff, and faculty.