2017 State of the University

October 6, 2017

Today, I had planned to share with the campus community some wonderful news about investments in three new academic programs, support for student success programming at the soon-to-be-built Black Cultural Center and nine new endowed faculty chair positions for our schools and colleges. We are able to make these investments thanks to an incredibly generous $50 million dollar gift. Unfortunately, I was not able to tell you my good news in person, because my speech was disrupted by a small group of protesters. Instead, I am linking to a video in which I have delivered the speech for you to hear.

I strongly value free speech and academic freedom. I had already planned to talk about these issues prior to today’s happenings, because freedom of expression is a pressing issue, and I feel strongly about our need to foster robust debate and discussion. It is essential to our mission as a university. I respect protesters’ rights to share their views, but I do not agree in shutting down another person's right to speak.

The vast majority of our students understand the value of free speech. Indeed, they understand that the reason many of the protesters today are at our institution is because of the courageous speech of others throughout the years. They also understand that the right way to express their views is not to stop others from expressing their views. I am saddened that the protesters have displayed a disdain for one of the core values of our academy, our democracy, and our history.

I come away from today’s experience with a new energy and determination to teach all of our students and members of the community the value of free speech and tolerance.  In my speech, which I hope you will watch, I announced a year-long series of lectures and panels about the role of free speech and robust debate in the university. Each of our schools and colleges will participate and a wide variety of voices, interests, and views will be represented. It is only through more speech and robust debate that we will heal the differences in our society, not by shouting down those who seek to speak.

I invite you to watch my speech or read my remarks.