Principia’s 2009 “Free Speech” Policy

Unless you are living on campus and have access to the campus-only website much of the information about Principia’s policies is not easily available. Their website is full of feel-good “we’re all Christian Scientists isn’t it all great” propaganda, which carefully hiding/downplaying things like their “Free Speech Policy” and “sexual relations policies” (really, what business is it of theirs!?)

I disagree with this stance, I feel ALL prospective students, and their parents, should be able to access this information, as well as alumni, and other prospective donors, so that people can make truly informed decisions about where they plan to attend college and what sort of institutions they are supporting.

I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t really bother to read 90% of the policies, blue book, etc. during the application process until I “had to” for moral reasoning, or more recently when I got curious. Sure I skimmed the “no drinking, no drugs, no sex” – no big deal, at the time I wasn’t doing any of that anyway, and I wasn’t “homosexual” so I didn’t give too much (any?) thought to the policy. The college (and several other organizations) were offering me seemingly generous loans, grants and other money simply because I could write nice things and at least fake my way through being a somewhat decent Christian Scientist – to be fair, at the time I was trying hard to be a good CS, so living by the “community standards” wasn’t difficult, getting out of bed on my own to go to Sunday School was harder, but peer-pressure from roommates can be a powerful motivator.

This may be shocking to some, I’ve continued to NOT drink, NOT smoke, NOT be “homosexual,” and to limit most of the sex I’ve had/have been having to “within the confines of marriage” even after I left Prin, and possibly even more shockingly, even after I left CS. I have started taking drugs: occasionally I partake of an ibuprofen. I really don’t see what the big deal is. But I digress…

After much searching I have found the 2009 policy – in full below. Please note, the policies cited come from Mary Kimball Morgan’s Education at The Principia and they are also cited on the Purpose & Policies page at community.principia.edu. I have also linked to them on the CS Resources page of this blog as well.

Please note the “behind the firewall” tag simply means I had to do more than five minutes of searching around the internet (on more than one occasion) to find it as it was not easily locatable. Word is there is an older 2003 version of the “Free Speech Policy” – and I’d love to find it so the two can be compared. If you happen to have a copy, or a link to where I can find a copy, please e-mail me!


The UPDATED 2009 Free Speech Policy – found via http://www.principiacollege.edu/sites/default/files/academics/Free%20Speech%20Policy.pdf

Principia’s Free Speech Policy

This free speech policy is grounded in policies 2, 21, 22 as well as 1, 6, 9, and 16 as found in Education at The Principia by Mary Kimball Morgan.

In accordance with policy 21–which states: Any organized activity associated with The Principia and carried on in the interests of The Principia shall exist only as it is authorized by The Principia Corporation–Principia oversees messages presented during school endorsed activities, such as convocation or baccalaureate. Principia does not shy away from engagement with controversial issues, but does expect the community to be sensitive to time, place and propriety.

Community members should respect Principia’s Purpose and do their part to help foster an environment of spiritual growth in accordance with the teachings and practices of Christian Science. Principia shall strive to be an environment of thoughtfulness and moral courage, in accordance with policy 6, which states: The Principia shall dedicate its service to the task of training its students to think–and to think clearly, vigorously, fearlessly, tolerantly, unselfishly. The ability to gather and weigh evidence and to form conclusions that are free from personal influence or selfish considerations is essential to the formulation of sound judgment and to the exercise of constructive citizenship in a democracy. The Principia shall encourage its faculty, staff, and student body to learn by practice and experience, to test their thinking by reference to Divine Law as given in the Bible and as interpreted in the writings of Mary Baker Eddy.

The ideals and spiritual integrity of Principia are stead fast and immutable; these are made evident through the structure of the institution, which is fluid and responsive, while still resting on Principia’s ideals and integrity. Therefore, Principia, to the greatest extent possible, will not restrict the freedom of speech. Libelous or slanderous statements are not protected speech. It is important in a small community that community members be able to have civil discourse with compassion, respect, and maturity. Community members should strive to propagate constructive discourse rather than destructive argumentation. In order to foster the best possible environment for both strong moral structures and robust discourse, guidelines for responsible free speech have been outlined below.

Principles for Responsible Speech at Principia:

  • Spiritual Foundation – All discourse should have a spiritual foundation, and metaphysical comments should always be welcome. However, in accordance with the Church Manual, community members “shall not debate on Christian Science in public debating assemblies” (p. 50).
  • Tone – The spirit of speech should be truth-seeking, selfless, courageous, and courteous.
  • Balance – All sides of controversial issues should be welcome for fair treatment/presentation.
  • Accountability – Fair warning should be provided before potentially offensive content is presented to the community as well as contact information for criticism or concerns. Community members should submit a proposal for approval to the Office of Student Life before presenting to the community gratuitous: violence, drinking, drug use, or sexual activity.
  • Mediation – Large discussions or debates should be moderated. Moderators should remain neutral and attempt to resolve any miscommunication. All community members involved in a discussion or debate should help to maintain a courteous and civil discussion. For example, if discourse or debate becomes hurtful and disorganized, anyone present may ask that a period of silence be taken. If after such an interval the discussion is unable to be continued civilly, it could be recommended that another meeting take place for the express purpose of finding reconciliation.

Authored by Gameli Anumu, Noelle Matteson, David Miller, and Matthew Flavell

Approved by Presidential Board 4/19/09

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2 thoughts on “Principia’s 2009 “Free Speech” Policy

  1. Noelle says:

    I’m one of the authors. The fact is, this was a BS Free Speech Policy but it was the only way we’d be allowed to debate or protest the homosexuality policy without getting suspended. My name is on this, yet I feel the need to absolve myself since I agree with almost nothing here. I didn’t see any reason why we should police how free speech should be conducted. That’s the point of free speech. As long as it’s not slanderous, threatening, hate speech, etc., it should be allowed. This vapid policy was designed simply to let students get their feet in the door in terms of protesting. I and other students debated with the administration on this for years. Jonathan Palmer was the most open-minded, but the whole experience was extremely frustrating. Now the homosexuality policy has been abolished. I was shocked and happy, but also not exactly impressed that it was only removed last year. I was the same in regards to not paying attention to a lot of the rules until I was actually there.

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