Free inquiry and open debate is vital for research and education.

The Berkeley Initiative for Free Inquiry (BIFI) is a faculty group devoted to improving the climate for free speech

Our mission

We are a group of Berkeley faculty representing diverse viewpoints and disciplines who share a common commitment to free inquiry and open debate. We believe these are vital ingredients to maintaining the University’s position as a leading institution for research and higher education.

Free inquiry is a central requirement for the University’s excellence in all of its core missions: A proper university education must invite students to grapple earnestly with difficult and uncomfortable questions, credible scientific research must approach politically loaded empirical questions with unflinching willingness to report inconvenient findings, and vigorous scholarship in the arts and humanities must be free to boldly question consensus beliefs and values. While we prize civility and kindness, these values must never be grounds for suppressing debate: at Berkeley, no ideas are off-limits, and no assumptions beyond questioning.

Group members affirm that a special responsibility for the stewardship of academic freedom falls on the faculty, who lead in the classroom, set disciplinary standards, and evaluate the scholarship of students and colleagues. Tenured faculty, who enjoy the strongest protections for their professional and extramural speech, must correspondingly shoulder the primary burden of defending others’ right to freely explore controversial ideas.

We also recognize that Berkeley can truly flourish only if non-tenured members of our scholarly community, including students, can think and speak freely. As such, formal procedural protections alone are no substitute for a community-wide commitment to approaching hotly contested issues with an open-minded spirit of curiosity and charity toward opposing viewpoints.

We will strive to protect the freedoms so hard won here.

Free Speech Movement sign under Sather Gate.University Archives photo, courtesy of Bancroft Library. 1964.
  • Stanford tweaks institutional neutrality policy

    According to the Stanford Report, the campus tweaked its institutional neutrality and free speech policies. The new institutional policy reads: When speaking for the institution, Stanford University leaders and administrators should not express an opinion on political and social controversies, unless these matters directly affect the mission of the university or implicate its legal obligations.…


  • Harvard FAS will replace DEI statements with service statement

    The Crimson reports that Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences will no longer require DEI statements of faculty candidates: [Dean of Faculty Affairs and Planning] Zipser wrote that she and FAS Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra “made this change in response to feedback from numerous faculty members” who expressed concern that existing requirements were “too narrow…


  • Harvard didn’t plagiarize Chicago’s Kalven approach

    In the Report on Institutional Voice in the University, the Institutional Voice working group wrote, the “university and its leaders should not…issue official statements about public matters that do not directly affect the university’s core function.”


Our goals

We intend to pursue the following goals to improve the climate for free inquiry at Berkeley:

  • Review new and existing university policies to ensure that they are compatible with academic freedom and freedom of speech, and advocate for revisions where necessary.
  • Work to ensure the full spectrum of rights under Academic Senate Bylaw 40.3: “No political test shall ever be considered in the appointment and promotion of any faculty member or employee.”
  • Advocate for colleagues and students when they come under attack for the ideas they express.
  • Advocate for the embrace of the Kalven Report and for institutional neutrality on contested social and political questions that do not directly concern the University’s operation.
  • Ensure that university time, place and manner restrictions, as well as policies on bullying, harassment, and discrimination, are implemented consistently and even-handedly.
  • Provide scholarly programming including conferences and seminar series to promote thoughtful and constructive discussion both of academic freedom per se, and of controversial but important issues.
  • Educate faculty about their rights and responsibilities relating to academic freedom, and advise them about how to successfully manage courses that engage with difficult issues.
  • Develop new courses that explore free speech and open inquiry and the pressures that confront these values.
  • Encourage students to speak their minds freely, to engage in passionate but civil discussions when they disagree, and to recognize the foundational importance of the free exchange of ideas both in a university and in a democratic society.


Members are expected to list their names publicly on the organization’s website and to uphold the above principles in the course of their teaching and scholarship. Members will be invited, but not required, to participate in the group’s activities as described below. Membership confers the right to vote for the group’s leadership council, which will set the group’s agenda, write open letters on the group’s behalf, and otherwise act as its executive arm, in consultation with the membership when possible. Open letters will be circulated to the group before release.

BIFI Membership

FirstLastTitle and UnitRole
Vinod K.AggarwalDistingushed Professor, Political ScienceExecutive Committee
SarahAnziaProfessor, Public Policy & Political ScienceMember
AlanAuerbachProfessor, Economics and LawMember
BrianBarskyProfessor of the Graduate SchoolMember
EricBiberProfessor of LawMember
DéborahBlockerProfessor of French, affiliated faculty in Italian StudiesExecutive Committee
MatildeBombardiniAssociate Professor – Haas School of BusinessMember
RichardBorcherdsMath deptMember
KirillBorusyakAssistant Professor, Department of Argicultural and Resource EconomicsMember
MarkBrilliantAssociate Professor of History and American StudiesMember
DmitryBudkerProfessor of Graduate School, PhysicsMember
DanicaChenProfessor, NSTMember
JackCitrinProfessor of Political ScienceExecutive Committee
JohnConnellySidney Hellman Ehrman Professor, Dept. of HistoryMember
FrederickCrewsProfessor of English EmeritusMember
KurtCuffeyProfessor, Department of GeographyMember
ShamikDasguptaAssociate Professor, PhilosophyMember
Markitadel Carpio LandryAssociate Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular EngineeringMember
Frederick M.DolanProfessor of Rhetoric, EmeritusMember
RobertDudleyProfessor of Integrative BiologyMember
SandrineDudoitProfessor, Department of StatisticsMember
JohnEfronKoret Chair in Jewish History, Department of HistoryMember
AlexeiEfrosProfessor, Electrical Engineering and Computer SciencesMember
MarlaFellerProfessor, MCB/NeuroMember
SteveFishProfessor of Political ScienceMember
AnthonyFisherProfessor Emeritus, Agricultural and Resource EconomicsMember
WillFithianAssociate Professor of StatisticsExecutive Committee
RobinFlaggContinuing LecturerMember
MichaelFrenklachDistinguished Professor of Mechanical EngineeringMember
JohannFrickAssociate Professor of PhilosophyMember
SeanGailmardProfessor, Charles & Louise Travers Department of Political ScienceMember
EileenGambrillsocial welfare:Emerita ProfessorMember
WayneGetzDistinguished Professor of the Graduate DivisionMember
NeilGilbertDistinguished Professor of Social Welfare Milton and Gertrude Chernin Professor of Social Welfare and the Social Services Member
EmilianoGomezInstructor, MathematicsMember
MarcoGonzalez-NavarroAssociate Professor, Agricultural and Resource EconomicsMember
AlisonGopnikDistinguished Professor in the Graduate School Psychology PsychologyMember
YuriyGorodnichenkoEconomics Dept, LSAMember
AlexanderGiventalprofessor of mathematicsMember
TerryHendershottProfessor, Haas Business SchoolMember
CarlaHessePeder Sather Professor, HistoryMember
AlexandraHillAssistant Professor of Cooperative Extension in the Department of Agricultural and Resource EconomicsMember
WesleyHollidayProfessor, PhilosophyMember
DavidHollingerPreston Hotchkis Professor of History EmereitusMember
ChrisHoofnagleTeaching Professor, School of LawExecutive Committee
ElizabethHooverAssoc Prof, ESPMMember
AlanHubbardProfessor, School of Public HealthMember
JamesHurleyProfessor, Molecular and Cell Biology Member
MichaelHutchingsProfessor, MathematicsMember
BobJacobsenProfessor, PhysicsMember
Nicholas P.JewellProfessor of the Graduate SchoolMember
SvetlanaJitomirskayaProfessor, MathematicsMember
LarryKarpProfessor, Agricultural and Resource EconomicsMember
ZsoltKatonaProfessor, Haas School of BusinessMember
ShreeharshKelkarContinuing Lecturer, Interdisciplinary Studies Field (ISF), UGISMember
OrinKerrWilliam G. Simon Professor, UC Berkeley Law SchoolMember
RobKirbyMath Dept. EmeritusMember
DouglasKoshlandProfessor MCB L&SMember
GregoryLaBlancDistinguished Teaching Fellow, Haas School of BusinessMember
NancyLemonRetired Herma Hill Kay Lecturer, Berkeley School of LawMember
JosephLewnardAssociate Professor of Epidemiology, School of Public HealthMember
EthanLigonProfessor, Dept of Agricultural & Resource EconomicsExecutive Committee
DmitryLivdanAssociate Professor, HaasMember
JohnLottProfessor, MathematicsMember
JohnMacFarlaneProfessor of PhilosophyMember
JitendraMalikArthur J. Chick Professor, Department of EECSMember
JonMcAuliffeAdjunct Professor, StatisticsMember
SmritiMehtaPostdoctoral Scholar, Berkeley School of Education & Department of PhysicsExecutive Committee
DanielMeliaProfessor emeritus, Rhetoric and Celtic StudiesMember
SabeehaMerchantProfessor, Molecular and Cell Biology, Plant and Microbial BiologyMember
LeonardMillerProfessor of Social Welfare, emeritusMember
PriyaMoorjaniAssistant Professor, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Center for Computational BiologyMember
JelaniNelsonProfessor, Department of EECSMember
MauriceObstfeldProfessor Emeritus, EconomicsMember
PanosPapadopoulosProfessor, Mechanical EngineeringMember
KristoferPisterProfessor, EECSMember
RobertPriceProfessor of Political Science, emeritusMember
SatishRaoEECSExecutive Committee
DylanRileyProfessor of SociologyMember
AndresRodriguez-ClareProfessor, EconomicsMember
David M.RompsProfessor, Department of Earth and Planetary ScienceExecutive Committee
StephenRosenbaumFrank C. Newman Lecturer, School of LawMember
AndreaRothProfessor of Law and Barry Tarlow Chancellor’s Chair in Criminal JusticeMember
AnantSahaiProfessor of EECSMember
Daniel J.SargentAssociate Professor, History Department and Goldman School of Public PolicyExecutive Committee
RobertSaxtonAssistant Professor, Molecular and Cell BiologyMember
JuliaSchaletzkyExecutive Director, Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases; professional faculty, UCBExecutive Committee
RandySchekmanProfessor, Molecular and Cell BiologyMember
StefanoSchiavonProfessor, Architecture and Civil and Environmental EngineeringMember
JulianaSchroederAssociate Professor, HaasMember
AlejandroSchulerAssistant Professor, BiostatisticsMember
EthanShaganProfessor of HistoryMember
AndyShankenProfessor, Architecture and American Studies/Director, American StudiesMember
JonathanSheehanHistory DepartmentMember
DavidSkolnickLecturer, CWPMember
DavidSraerAssociate Professor, Haas School of Business and Economics DepartmentMember
ZvezdelinaStankovaDepartment of MathematicsMember
JohnSteeleProfessor of Mathematics emeritusMember
DavidSteigmannProfessor, Department of Mechanical EngineeringMember
JonSteinssonChancellor’s Professor of EconomicsMember
JillStonerProfessor of the Graduate SchoolMember
ShobhanaStoyanovContinuing Lecturer, StatisticsMember
SteveTadelisProfessor of Economics, Business and Public Policy, Sarin Chair in Leadership and Strategy, Haas School of BusinessMember
Nathan MatthieuTangPhD Student, ChemistryStudent advisor
RyanTibshiraniProfessor of StatisticsMember
GrigoryTikhomorovassistant professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer SciencesMember
DorisTsaoProfessor, NeuroscienceMember
StevenWeberProfessor of the Graduate SchoolMember
EverettWetchlerPhD CandidateStudent advisor
BenWilliamsAssistant Professor, Plant and Microbial BiologyMember
JasonWittenbergProfessor of Political ScienceMember
JonathanWurteleProfessor of PhysicsMember