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At a time when campuses nationwide are wrestling with the complexities of free expression, Colorado Mesa University (CMU) students demonstrated what civility can look like when the campus culture practices and embodies a set of community values that help set standards for how people should treat each another. 

CMU students and local community members demonstrated passionately during an organized demonstration to "Free Palestine." Like other student groups around the nation, both students and community members gathered carrying a message for the war in Gaza. What was different was the demonstrators did so without the shadow of violence or arrests that have marred similar events elsewhere. 

The demonstration was not only a testament to the students' passion, but also to the university's foundational values—love, dignity, courage, humility, resilience, curiosity and power. CMU President John Marshall met with the organizer prior to the event, reinforcing the administration's support for their First Amendment rights. His pride in the students' initiative to embody CMU's values through constructive dialogue and demonstration was expressed by Marshall during the meeting. 

“As a values-based campus we feel strongly about freedom of expression, where free speech is available to all, and encouraged,” said Marshall. “Last month campus hosted New York Times columnist Bret Stephens who spoke about antisemitism. Today we saw a passionate group of students raising their voices about the war in Gaza. The conditions are right at CMU for anyone who has a voice to be heard, while maintaining respect and acknowledging the dignity of others.” 

CMU’s green light rating by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) underscores this ethos. Since adopting the Chicago Statement on free expression, CMU has committed to not just allowing, but actively encouraging, free speech on campus. This policy framework has cultivated an environment where students feel empowered to express their beliefs safely and openly. 

As other institutions grapple with maintaining order and free expression, CMU’s approach offers a blueprint for fostering a campus culture rooted in open dialogue and mutual respect. The peaceful conduct of the Free Palestine demonstration is a clear indicator that CMU students are not only ready to discuss the issues that move them but are also prepared to lead by example in a world that desperately needs more dialogue and less division. 

Today, CMU continues to demonstrate that the true power of higher education lies in its ability to transform society by empowering its students to think critically, communicate effectively, and engage civically with the pressing issues of our time. 


Written by David Ludlam