Dean’s Statement: Freedom of Speech at Berkeley Law

From: Dean Erwin Chemerinsky
Date: September 13, 2022

Dear Law School Community,

As we emerge from the restrictions of COVID, it is wonderful to see the large number of speakers and events in the Law School. This is part of what makes Berkeley Law such an exciting intellectual environment. As we return to more events, I also thought it might be helpful to provide a reminder with regard to our free speech policies in the Law School.

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 viewpoints 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.

In addition, 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 last year at other law schools where students disrupted events so that speakers could not be heard. That is a violation of the Law School’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 invite your own speaker or to engage in non-disruptive protests.

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