March 26, 2004
Office of the Chancellor
Phone: (919) 962-1365
Faculty Council | The University of North Carolina at Chapel
I would like to use my time briefly commenting on a topic that Chair [Judith] Wegner and I have both raised in discussions this week with our Board of Trustees namely, the topic of intellectual freedom, academic freedom in Chapel Hill.
I strongly support the resolution on intellectual integrity and independence that this council will consider today.
Clearly, among students and faculty we are seeing increased interest regarding expressions reflecting a diversity of viewpoints in our daily campus life.
This is a phenomenon that, by no means, is unique to Carolina. It is a national phenomenon, a national trend we are seeing all across this nation. Administrators, faculty and students are discussing these issues regularly.
It is natural that we should be having these conversations here in Chapel Hill, where, in fact, we have been in the spotlight and at the eye of the storm since our creation in 1793.
Our University's history has been marked by the yeast of democracy, and we are very proud of it.
This discussion is all to the good. It is healthy. It goes to our core values of Carolina our genetic code and the great traditions we have here with respect to academic freedom and the free marketplace of ideas.
That is why we exist: to promote the free exchange of ideas.
Our main responsibility is to remain a vibrant intellectual community in which all viewpoints can be comfortably expressed and heard in an atmosphere of civility and respect.
Our charge is to maintain an open atmosphere, one in which unpopular or controversial ideas may be expressed, heard, but also challenged without any fear of retribution.
The primary role of a university is not to espouse a point of view, but rather to provide a platform for the expression of all points of view.
Those of us within the University community are not always going to agree among ourselves about the issues of the day.
And we must defend the right of those who have opposing views. That is the role of our academy and, indeed, the right of all of us as individual citizens.
Some would argue that some ideas are so hurtful or so harmful that we should not permit them to be expressed. But any effort to declare a particular point of view off limits is, in my view, not consistent with our values as a totally free and open institution.
The better approach is to encourage speech on all matters, with all points of view.
We should not suppress any viewpoint, but we should require intellectual vigor. We will not treat any member of our community unfairly, and we will affirm the value of all members of our community.
While we will vigorously enforce the University's non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, we will not restrict free expression on this campus.
It is appropriate for me to update the faculty on one specific issue. We have been notified that the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education will conduct a compliance review of the University.
The purpose of this review is to evaluate the University's compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin), and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (which prohibits discrimination based on sex).
The review is a result of concerns about a class e-mail sent by a lecturer in the department of English.
I believe the response by the chair of the department of English and the University was both timely and appropriate, tempered and measured. The chair has my full support. We will cooperate fully with the Office of Civil Rights.
In this regard ... I also want this council to know about positive movement forward in implementing a key recommendation of the Chancellor's Task Force for a Better Workplace, which included several members of this Faculty Council. We are creating an ombuds office to provide a venue in which job-related concerns of faculty and staff may be expressed. This office is consistent with our desire to ensure the concept of fair play is alive and well on our campus. It is just one more way to assure the community that this is an important priority for us at Carolina.
Serving at a public university, all of us have a special responsibility to vigorously protect the right of everyone to be heard. Civil discourse is a core value at Carolina. The University's proper role is to increase knowledge and understanding light and liberty. Lux. Libertas.