USD President Issues Statement on Free Speech

University of South Dakota President Sheila Gestring has initiated an investigation into the actions of the interim law school administration surrounding the law school “Hawaiian Day” party.

The investigation will be conducted to determine whether Board of Regents policies were violated, paying particular attention to Policy 1:32, Commitment to Freedom of Expression.

USD is committed to Policy 1:32 and its principles, as stated in policy, “… fundamental commitment to the principle that viewpoints may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the institution’s community to be offensive, unwise, immoral or wrong-headed. Controversial speech and robust debate are expected and valued at the institutions. The right to engage in such expression is one of the rights protected by the United States Constitution.”

Administrative censorship of student speech and expression is a serious matter and not something USD condones without compelling justification consistent with Board policy, such as a genuine threat. Free expression and a fierce dedication to an open marketplace of ideas is at the very heart of USD’s foundation as a liberal arts university. That strong commitment to the preservation of free speech and expression is reflected in Policy 1:32, and USD is dedicated to ensuring that policy is upheld.

USD views policy violations very seriously and will conduct a thorough and swift investigation.