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Letter to the community: Affirming democratic ideals at Stanford


Writer’s note: The text of this letter for signature is available at

Stanford’s motto, “Die Luft der Freiheit weht” — “the wind of freedom blows” — has never been more relevant. Academic institutions rely on core ideals of our democracy — such as inclusivity, rational discourse and freedom of speech — to fulfill our mission of research and education. Although we don’t always live up to these ideals, we always try, because they support the highest aspirations of academia.

Unfortunately, recent developments in national politics — including actions and rhetoric that encourage division, misinformation and intimidation — have undermined these ideals. These developments weaken our society, erode our democracy and hinder the academic mission. Times like these demand that we defend our ideals in ways that we haven’t before.

Academic institutions can play a major role if we are united. For this reason, I’ve written a brief open letter, included below, expressing the academic commitment to democratic values and invited faculty, students and staff from American colleges and universities to sign it. The goal of this letter is to unify the academic community around our shared ideals and thereby to support the diverse actions needed to defend them on our campuses and beyond.

Since its March 21 release, the letter has gathered signatures from more than 750 faculty, students, and staff at over 120 academic institutions nationwide. Based on this encouraging support, we hope to reach a larger community.

A strong show of support from our community would be in the highest tradition of Stanford’s leadership among the nation’s academic institutions. All faculty, students and staff are invited to sign and support our commitment to democratic values.


Our nation’s colleges and universities are built on ideals of a free and democratic society: inclusivity, reasoned debate and freedom of expression. Any threat to these ideals undermines the academic mission of research and education and erodes the foundations of our nation and society. When such threats arise, the academic community has a responsibility to defend the values that unite us.

We — faculty, students and staff of American colleges and universities — affirm that:

  • inclusivity and diversity enrich our society and strengthen our nation;
  • reasoned debate based on facts and knowledge advances civilization;
  • freedom of expression inspires creativity and encourages innovation.

As members of the academic community, we pledge to promote these values on our campuses and beyond.

— E.J. Chichilnisky
John R. Adler Professor of Neurosurgery, Ophthalmology and (by courtesy) Electrical Engineering


Contact E.J. Chichilnisky at ej ‘at’

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