President Bounds’ Statement on Free Speech

September 28, 2016

By Hank Bounds
President, University of Nebraska

To the University of Nebraska Community:

Over the past few days, our university has been at the center of a statewide conversation about free speech and the rights of student-athletes to peacefully protest. Many Nebraskans, including some of you, have expressed their opinions about the decision by three NU football players to kneel during the national anthem before Saturday's game. Some have been supportive. Others have disagreed, in some cases passionately so.

That all are free to share their view is the privilege of living in the greatest country in the world.

“College campuses, as much as any space, must be places where robust, even uncomfortable, debate is welcomed and encouraged. I want every student, faculty and staff member to know that I am unwavering in my support of your right to participate in these dialogues.”

I have served in the military. I understand love of country and love of the flag and I know that freedom is not free. I recognize that some are upset by what they saw on Saturday night. But let me be clear. The University of Nebraska will not restrict the First Amendment rights of any student or employee. Our position on this issue is abundantly clear. As stated in Board of Regents policy, which has been in place for almost a half-century: “Members of the academic community have the right to extensive latitude in making their opinions known… The public exploration and resolution of differing views can be successful only when groups and individuals discuss the issues in forums where the right to disagree, speak freely and be heard is preserved.”

The same freedoms that protect the speech of those who have joined the conversation in recent days also protect our students' speech – whether they're kneeling during the national anthem, holding the American flag on the field, praying after a game or expressing their opinion during class or on campus. All of that speech falls under the same category. All of it is protected.

Our nation is dealing with difficult issues today, as we have for virtually our entire history. Each of us will react differently. College campuses, as much as any space, must be places where robust, even uncomfortable, debate is welcomed and encouraged. I want every student, faculty and staff member to know that I am unwavering in my support of your right to participate in these dialogues in the manner you choose under the First Amendment and University of Nebraska policy.

Thank you for all that you do for the University of Nebraska. I am honored and humbled to serve with you.