Good afternoon. Thank you for all of your time and efforts on behalf of our students and institution. There are many great things transpiring on our campus both inside and outside of the classroom. In fact, I regularly see and hear about the impact that you make in the lives of our students and the community. We are most appreciative of all efforts to elevate our students and University.
Together, at this pivotal time in our history, we have the potential to build on our solid foundation and accomplish many great things. Through unity and inclusion, we can gain real strength. As discussed at our recent town hall meetings, I invite everyone to unite as we work to overcome our challenges and continue to serve our students.
As this semester is quickly coming to an end, I plan on sending out a series of communications in advance of winter break. This is the first of several. This semester, our campus has had the opportunity to engage in discussions related to free speech and academic freedom. Being new to campus, I wanted to add my voice to the conversation.
Occasionally, we have members of our University family, community members, organizations, or other individuals raise concerns about certain expressions, comments, or displays made by Missouri Western faculty members, staff, students, or even speakers brought onto our campus by student organizations. Some of these expressions, comments, or displays may offend, anger, or upset others. Some may not necessarily represent the desired approach or position of the University. Some expressions may even be inconsistent with Missouri Western’s desired commitment to engage in reasoned discussion, balanced points of view, and inclusion.
Nonetheless, the University does value the freedom to state views in an educational manner and engage in lively discourse regarding such views. All members of the Griffon family (faculty, staff, students, and alumni) are free to express their viewpoints as private citizens in public forums. This includes viewpoints and approaches that the University may not endorse or share. Moreover, the University does not restrict recognized university organizations or the speakers they invite to campus so long as the organizations obey the law and follow University policy.
Additionally, it is important to remember that academic freedom is a foundational aspect of American higher education. We encourage members of our community to express ideas, advance concepts, and challenge the ideas of others with respect and civility. In fact, we invite members to explore controversial ideas and expose all types of assumptions to scrutiny. At the same time, academic freedom envisages that these actions will fall within the boundaries of civil and respectful discourse. While the University will not defend every idea or opinion expressed by every member of our community or necessarily agree with the form of delivery, we will defend every member’s right to speak freely. That freedom is essential to our University, our society, and our nation.
Every employee at Missouri Western is an educator. As educators, our goals should always include respect, civility, open inquiry, and two-way dialogue. From my perspective and experience, these goals can open the doors to education, progress, tolerance, bridge-building, and peace. Not only can opposing behavior can hinder education, but it can also negatively reflect on the University and our industry. For example, I have seen how intolerance, contention, mocking behavior, and meanness about differences can be harmful and destructive. As we exercise academic freedom and free speech, I personally hope that we will be open-minded, good listeners, and show concern for everyone. Ideally, our conduct and communications with respect to controversial topics should be educational and not contentious. Further, our conduct should also be in accordance with standards dictated by law.
On behalf of Missouri Western, I want to extend our appreciation to you for supporting our students and the University. It is a privilege and honor to have you as part of our team.
Matt Wilson, President
Missouri Western State University