Alumni Free Speech Alliance to Safeguard VMI Campus Free Speech

Group pledges to join alumni and especially VMI cadets, in order to return maximum self-governance to the Corps of Cadets by restoring and strengthening their voice by aggressively defending their right to free speech.

The Cadet newspaper and The Cadet Foundation were honored, by unanimous acclimation, to become a full member of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA). By this honor, Virginia Military Institute (VMI) cadets, alumni, faculty and staff at VMI now joins a prestigious collection of alumni groups representing Ivy League and other major Institutions of Higher Education across the United States. These include Bucknell, Cornell, Davidson, Harvard, Lafayette, Macalester, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, Stanford, University of North Carolina, University of Virginia, Washington & Lee, Wofford, and Yale.

Tom Rideout, AFSA Co-Chairman and President of The Generals Redoubt at Washington & Lee (W&L) University, issued a statement on behalf of ASFA that, “The Alumni Free Speech Association (AFSA) is thrilled to announce that The Cadet Foundation will represent the Virginia Military Institute as its 15th group member.

“AFSA was created in October 2021 for two purposes.  One was to serve as an umbrella group to gather a strong nucleus of higher education alternative alumni associations with a shared mission of supporting free speech, academic freedom and viewpoint diversity.  It seeks to provide a variety of forums for information exchange and operational methods to pursue them.  AFSA is building a tool kit, developing communications channels and content, and acquiring strategic allies to allow its members to pursue these goals on their specific campuses.  The association also recognizes that its member groups will have unique collections of campus battles to wage, some with free speech issues and others without.  So there exists an embedded goal to provide a place for information sharing on a range of broad problem solving issues and capabilities.

“Secondly, as higher education administrations persist in placing “social justice” agendas ahead of providing traditional educational services, it is anticipated that pressure will grow to create more alternative alumni association groups.  Their goals might be returning to the delivery of classic liberal arts education or offering truly science based STEM curricula.  Or it might be fighting to assist faculty members whose teaching is burdened with demands for compelled speech.  Or it might be resisting the imposition of litmus tests for applicants to teach in higher educational institutions, tests being imposed by ever growing and uncontrolled bureaucratic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion staffs. AFSA is committed to creating a growing number of new groups to champion free speech issues and other campus specific issues.

“So AFSA offers a welcoming salute to cadets at The Cadet , The Cadet Foundation and especially VMI cadets.  We look forward to your assistance in precisely targeting your considerable resources in the struggle to save higher education from itself.”

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “free speech, academic freedom and viewpoint diversity are in big trouble at U.S. universities. But many of those worried over the state of campuses are almost resigned to the idea that the forces of intolerance have won.” To open the dialog and allow free expression of all ideas without fear of retaliation or pressure, AFSA member groups are nonpartisan and will protect the rights of faculty and students across the ideological spectrum.

In a recent  survey  by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), who recently delivered VMI a formal warning on Freedom of Speech violations regarding The Cadet, “more than 80% of students reported self-censoring their views at least some of the time, with 21% saying they censor themselves often. The survey, of more than 37,000 college students on 209 campuses, shows growing support among students for various forms of censorship, especially of conservative speakers, with 66% of students saying that shouting down speakers on campus may be justified. Other polls report similar results.” The survey also found that tolerance for free speech among faculty is slightly better, but it is in decline.

According to AFSA’s website, “The Alliance brings together alumni groups that have a focus on supporting free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity at their colleges and universities. Members of the Alliance believe that free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity are critical to the advancement of knowledge and to very concept of a university. Yet surveys show most students at colleges and universities have little understanding of these principles. Most students oppose free speech.”

AFSA sees free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity are critical parts of the foundation of every college and university and their research shows, “Many institutions may already be reaching a breaking point.”

Membership in AFSA not only brings significant resources to the Corps in protecting their individual and collective Free Speech rights, but tremendous opportunity for individual cadets.

For example, AFSA recently provided opportunities for students and other member representatives to participate in a Capitol Hill event. The Congressional Roundtable on Free Speech held in the Capitol led by Congressman Murphy (R-NC), a Davidson graduate and a strong supporter of free speech, was live streamed and included leaders of the House Education and Labor Committee.  Two students from AFSA member schools, Washington and Lee (W&L) and University of Virginia (UVA), participated, as did representatives of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), FIRE and the Young Americans Foundation (YAF).  The Cadet Foundation is currently coordinating for representatives from The Cadet staff and the Corps to participate in future events as The Cadet editorial staff and First Class leadership select.

“We are delighted that The Cadet Foundation has been accepted for membership in this prestigious organization,” says Tim Cordle ’79. “AFSA is comprised of devoted alumni from the top-shelf colleges and universities in the country, bound by a passionate defense of the most-critical, most-basic right.  The Corps and the Institute at-large will benefit greatly from this relationship, and we look forward to working with the VMI Board of Visitors, Administration, Faculty, and Staff to ensure that the Corps is guaranteed the unlimited exercise of this precious freedom.”

On behalf of AFSA Rideout issued a strong commitment to support free speech at VMI, “With your Cadet Newspaper and The Cadet Foundation, AFSA pledges to join alumni and especially cadets in order to return maximum self-governance to the Corps of Cadets by restoring and strengthening their voice in defense of their right to free speech.”

Cadets, faculty and staff who want to become involved, have issues, concerns or questions regarding free speech at VMI or need assistance can contact a member of The Cadet editorial staff, the Cadet Foundation, or their representative to AFSA, Tim Cordle ’79 directly or by email at: [email protected].

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