PREAMBLE. — Freedom of expression is central to our purpose as a literary and debating society. We seek to be a place that encourages our members to question our understanding of the world and provide enduring challenges to the current order. Our members creating discontent with the existing order and proposing alternatives to it is deeply rooted in our history and tradition, and in adopting this code we seek to reaffirm some old truths and safeguard a cherished tradition.
Article I – Freedom of Expression
§ 101 Chicago Statement
The Society affirms the Chicago Statement as expressed in Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, 1.1.3. § 101 is adapted from the Chicago Statement as adopted by the Faculty of the University.
Because the Society is principally a platform for the discussion, debate, and contestation of ideas, except insofar as such restrictions are absolutely necessary to the proper functioning of the Society, it guarantees to all its members the broadest possible latitude to “discuss any problem that presents itself.” Consequently:
- All members of the Society share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect. However, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of the Society.
- The Society may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the Society. In addition, the Society may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the Society. These are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and shall not be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the Society’s commitment to free and open discussion of ideas.
- As a corollary to the Society’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of the Society must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Society members are free to criticize and contest the views expressed by other members, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views by the Society. However, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they disagree with. To this end, the Society has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.
§ 102 Diversity and Community
As a corollary to the Society’s commitment to freedom of expression, the Society also affirms Rights, Rules, Responsibilities 1.1.4, “Statement on Diversity and Community.”
§ 103 Subsidiary Organizations
This section shall not be interpreted as controlling the conduct of the Subsidiary Organizations, except where the Subsidiary Organizations are sponsoring an event with or otherwise presenting themselves under the name of the Society as a whole, or as preventing the Senate from adopting rules for maintaining good order, consistent with the Senate’s commitment to freedom of expression.
Article II – Institutional Neutrality
§ 201 Commitment to Institutional Neutrality
To foster an environment of freedom of expression, the Society shall adhere to the principle of institutional neutrality, as described in the University of Chicago’s Report on the University’s Role in Political and Social Action, which shall be controlling absent provisions made in this Code. As such:
- The Society as an institution shall act as a home and sponsor of critics, and not a critic in and of itself, sustain an extraordinary environment of freedom of inquiry and maintain independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures, and embrace, be hospitable to, and encourage the widest diversity of views within its own community.
- The Society as an institution shall not (i) insist that all of its members favor a given view of social policy, (ii) take collective action on the issues of the day, (iii) adopt, as an institution, a political or policy stance, (iv) consider the positions on social or political issues that a speaker or external student group seeking to use Whig Hall may have when managing the reservations of rooms in Whig Hall, (v) accept gifts, funds, or material goods from non-University or Society affiliated organizations or individuals, except where those gifts are given without restrictions on usage, or (vi) entertain honoraria or other fees from speakers or organizations invited by the Society.
§ 202 Reserved Rights
(a) INDIVIDUAL STATEMENTS. — The Society’s commitment to institutional neutrality generally shall not be interpreted as precluding individual members of the Society from stating their views in their individual capacity.
(b) EXEMPTION FOR SECTIONS. — Recognizing their inherently ideological nature, this section shall not be interpreted as precluding the Sections (Parties) of the Society from inviting speakers or holding events consistent with their ideological leanings, including where the Society is named as a sponsor.
Because of their nature as debating organizations open to a wide range of opinions, there is a strong presumption against the Sections as institutions taking a position or playing an active role with respect to external issues of a political, economic, social, moral, or legal character. However, recognizing that exceptional circumstances may arise, this section also shall not be interpreted as precluding the Sections from adopting positions on salient issues, provided that such positions are (1) adopted with the strong, clear, and affirmative consent of the members following a deliberative consideration process, (2) agreement with the positions is not made a condition for Section membership, and (3) the adoption of the position is not presumed to extend beyond the current term.
In their capacity as Section leaders, Section leaders shall not take positions or make statements on salient issues without obtaining the strong, clear, and affirmative consent of their Section. This provision shall not govern their conduct as individual members. Section leaders shall inform the voting members of the Governing Council as soon as they become aware that action may be taken under § 202 (b) and provide relevant updates in a timely manner.
Under no circumstances shall the Sections endorse a political candidate or party or otherwise engage in partisan political activities.
(c) EXEMPTION FOR SUBSIDIARIES, SENATE, AND OTHER FUNCTIONS. — This section shall not be interpreted as governing the conduct of the Subsidiary Organizations, except where the Subsidiary Organizations are sponsoring an event with or otherwise presenting themselves under the name of the Society as a whole. This section also shall not be interpreted as preventing the members of the Senate from adopting a motion on a social question posed for the purposes of debate, nor shall it be interpreted as preventing the Sections from adopting positions for the purposes of engaging in Senate Debates. This section shall not be interpreted as preventing the Society from awarding the James Madison Award or other awards or honors that it may deem necessary to establish.
§ 203 Extraordinary Conditions and Suspension
- PROCEDURE FOR SUSPENSION. — Upon a unanimous finding by the Governing Council or Assembly that an extraordinary condition exists, the Society may suspend § 201(2)(ii) and (iii) for the limited purpose of resolving that extraordinary condition. Such a suspension shall:
- Be explicitly limited in time and scope, and in no case is to extend beyond the current session of the Governing Council,
- Cease to be valid upon the withdrawal of support of one member of the Governing Council or by majority vote of the Trustees,
- Contain a written finding explaining both the finding of an extraordinary condition and the means by which the suspension would resolve that condition, and
- Address only the specific extraordinary condition that exists.
Such a suspension may be challenged by any one Member in Good Standing of the Society to be heard by the Constitutional Compliance Committee.
- CONDITIONS FOR SUSPENSION. — The only permissible extraordinary conditions which the Society may find are:
- The Society finds in times of crisis an imminent threat to its members’ free expression, or finds in times of crisis an imminent threat to its independence, interests, and values. In such a case the Society may take action to defend its own existence and the freedom of its members.
- The Society must necessarily act as an institution in its corporate capacity, with regard to its ownership of property, receipt of funds, awarding of honors, and membership in other organizations. In such a case the corporate activities of the Society may appear so incompatible with paramount social values as to require careful assessment of the consequences.
Apart from these narrow exceptions, there shall exist a heavy presumption against the Society taking collective action or expressing opinions on the political and social issues of the day, or modifying its corporate activities to foster social or political values.
Article III – Enforcement and Procedures
§ 301 Enforcement Actions
Because of the importance of freedom of expression to the Society, the Society shall take affirmative action to enforce this code in the event that it is violated. Any Member in Good Standing who directly witnesses a violation of this policy or any Voting Member of the Governing Council shall have standing to bring a complaint to the Constitutional Compliance Committee.
- OFFICERS OF THE SOCIETY. — Violation of this Code by an Officer of the Society may, upon a finding of responsibility by the Constitutional Compliance Committee or by the Board of Trustees, constitute Gross Misconduct and therefore may serve as grounds for removal from Society positions or loss of Society privileges.
- Violations of this policy by Voting Members of the Governing Council may serve as grounds for impeachment by the Assembly for Gross Misconduct and in accordance with the relevant provisions in the Constitution of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society.
- Violations of this policy by non-voting members of the Governing Council may serve as grounds for removal by the Governing Council in accordance with the relevant provisions in the Constitution of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society.
- MEMBERS OF THE SOCIETY. — Violations of this policy by any member may result in loss of Good Standing upon three quarters affirmative vote by the Governing Council.
- ALTERNATIVE SANCTIONS. — The Constitutional Compliance Committee, with the consent of the Governing Council or the Trustees, may impose one or more of the following sanctions on Officers instead of referral to the Assembly or Governing Council for removal or loss of Good Standing:
- Temporary suspension of voting privileges, not to exceed two months.
- Temporary delegation of duties to a deputy or other officer selected by the Governing Council, not to exceed two months.
- Society service, such as cleaning up or setting up after events.
- Written apology for the violation of this Code, and a pledge not to violate it in the future.
Article IV – Amendment and Ratification
§ 302 Amendments and Ratification
This Code shall come into effect upon approval by the Board of Trustees. This Code shall form part of the fundamental law of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society. Amendments to this Code shall be governed by the amendment process of the Constitution of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, with the additional provision that this Code shall be amendable by unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees.
(Bylaw adopted January 18, 2024)