Statement from President Joan T.A. Gabel

University of Minnesota Knoll gate

One of the best parts of being your president is witnessing the energy, passion, and diversity that surrounds us on all our campuses. Together, we carry forward traditions that are the cornerstone of our 168-year-old institution, while also accomplishing individual and collective successes that advance our community toward inclusive excellence.

Since becoming president, I have been asked about a variety of issues that are currently being debated across higher education. Among the questions I get asked is how I plan to approach issues of free speech, safety, and a sense of belonging on our campuses. I want to take this opportunity to share my perspectives with you.

As an institution of learning and discovery, where our work often builds new understanding, it is imperative that we provide a place for diverse views and opinions. Not only does the U.S. Constitution require us to do so, but it is our tradition. It is a part of who we are.

Protecting free speech has never been easy. For more than two centuries, many have tested the limits of free speech. Indeed, it can often feel as if there is too little, or too much, but hardly ever, just enough. But we cherish and guard it, and it has endured because it is one of our most important universal rights and one of the powerful tools we have to create change and build understanding.

I know that some views hurt individuals and communities and can lead to a sense of isolation and marginalization. I have deep empathy for those who are negatively impacted by the speech or actions of others. I want to assure you that I take issues of safety and belonging very seriously. I will continue to work with campus and community partners to provide individuals and communities the support they need to feel safe, welcome, and respected on our campuses. Be assured that I will speak to those values and stand behind them throughout my presidency. 

Finally, I want to be clear that the University condemns speech that promotes prejudice and discrimination. Though we honor the discourse, we do not always support what is said. Any reported incidents of bias will be taken seriously. I am strongly committed to creating inclusive and welcoming environments where everyone is respected, valued, and safe, has a strong sense of belonging, and can be their best selves.  

 

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University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
10/11/2019