When we first launched this blog, we hoped we might invite colleagues whom we admire and respect to contribute on occasion. We’re delighted to share with you today a guest essay by Michael J. Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke University. We invited him to write because we saw that Duke is doing some interesting programming to explore issues around freedom of speech and climate more thoughtfully, when the campus is not responding to an incident. Every campus is grappling with free expression issues in some fashion, and we thought colleagues might appreciate some perspective from Mike on this important topic.
Michael J. Schoenfeld
It is perhaps a great irony that one of the most difficult subjects for us to talk about is free speech, particularly the version that is the subject of attention on campus, in the media and across the internet. That colleges and universities, and the communicators at them, should have such a challenge conveying compelling messages about this fundamental standard is perhaps not surprising:
- Activists on the right and left, and every point in between, have weaponized freedom of speech by staking out the most extreme positions, and painting any opposition to their position as wrong, dangerous and even evil. Continue reading
Reflections for university leaders and their communities
Photo credit: University of Virginia Today
The violent neo-Nazi and white supremacist marches in Charlottesville and on the University of Virginia campus last weekend unleashed a torrent of hate-filled animosity beyond anything we have witnessed in several decades. Across the country, leaders are speaking out, social media is ablaze and citizens are challenging the abhorrent racism and bigotry on such sickening display.
A recent article in Education Dive titled “Don’t Wait on a Crisis to Implement Diversity initiatives” hit on some crucial points.
One thing I have observed over many years of work in this area is that activism and institutional response on race, climate, inclusion, and privilege seem to be cyclical. Institutions tend to change very slowly and they make the most change around diversity when they are responding to the “pain” and disruption of activism. Students and other activists grow frustrated with the slow pace of change, and things eventually come to a head with demonstrations, demands, and elevated attention.
The clash between news reporters, protesters and faculty at the University of Missouri has sparked a dialogue about First Amendment rights, media coverage of protest and why protesters might not want the news media in their midst.
Not surprisingly, the news media are reporting the incident as a violation of freedom of the press, and they may be right. But there are boundaries when it comes to media access on campus, and it’s worth discussing them. Continue reading