Free Inquiry and Expression



The liberal arts and sciences require the ability to inquire deeply and to express oneself freely. Phi Beta Kappa began as a secret society to provide students with the freedom to discuss and debate any topic. Ever since then, freedom of inquiry and freedom of expression have served as hallmarks of ΦBK.

The three stars on the Phi Beta Kappa key, adopted at the Society’s founding meeting in 1776, represent the core values of friendship, morality and literature. Deep personal and intellectual engagement with others as individuals, as fellow members of an academic community, and as fellow citizens express these values.
Today, Phi Beta Kappa champions freedom of inquiry and expression through successful programs around the country, thought leadership on this issue, and policies that advance a balanced understanding of free expression on campuses and throughout our society.
In this work, we engage our network of members, chapters, associations, and other supporters to demonstrate that free inquiry and expression are essential for meaningful and productive lives, and a flourishing democracy.


Free Expression Events



Skidmore College hosted Phi Beta Kappa Secretary and CEO Frederick M. Lawrence for a three-day residency as part of onging efforts to foster free speech on campus. This residency included multiple workshops and talks focused on how to advance difficult conversations in a time of increased societal polarization. Secretary Lawrence's residency included a public talk, “Free Speech on Campus in Challenging Times,” wide-ranging conversations with faculty, and discussions with student groups.


Phi Beta Kappa Society and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism hosted a live-stream discussion of free expression with national leaders in film, journalism, and digital media, including Participant Media CEO David Linde,Washington PostEditor Martin Baron, SoulPancake CEO Shabnam Mogharabi, Academy Award-winning film and television writer Josh Singer, and Phi Beta Kappa Secretary and CEO Frederick M. Lawrence.


Phi Beta Kappa Secretary/CEO Fred Lawrence and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist William Marimow spoke on "The Contours of Free Expression on Campus" at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. The event was presented by Bridging Divides: Higher Education’s Role in Advancing Understanding and Promoting a Just Society and co-sponsored by the Trinity College Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

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Plan an event at your chapter or association with the National Office. Contact Aurora Sherman at (202) 745-3287 or

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