October 15, 2020
Dear UT Community,
In a few days, individuals and organizations across the nation will come together to celebrate Free Speech Week. At UT, I have asked colleges, schools, departments and centers across the Forty Acres to get involved and host events, panels, discussions and activities to recognize the underlying significance of our First Amendment rights in enabling the profound teaching, research and public service that define our university.
The freedom to speak, think and express is at the very heart of any world-class academic institution. If we, at The University of Texas at Austin, are to lead society forward by educating new generations of talented students and discovering new knowledge, we must bring together a wide range of viewpoints and voices to do so. It is only through discourse — and occasionally, hard conversations and vigorous debate — that we can find common ground and make progress together.
So, if you have some available time — and I know that’s a rarity in the middle of this busy semester — I strongly encourage you to get involved and check out all that we have going on during the days ahead. The slate of online programming for next week is superb, wide-ranging and represents a host of perspectives — from a book talk with David French, former president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, to a conversation about free speech and economic justice. A complete list of UT’s free speech events can be found here.
I know that throughout this strange and unpredictable year, we have been tested in many ways. At times, we have disagreed with one another, but it is my sincere belief that we are stronger and ultimately more effective as a community not in spite of our differences, but because of them. We are a creative and innovative powerhouse for scholarship, research, and critical thought and inquiry because we dare to differ. We make our points passionately, but we show respect for others with whom we may not see eye to eye. As UT alum and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker said, “within complexity and nuance, we find hope.” Our hope for the future does not come from shutting down voices, but by embracing the responsibilities of respecting others, listening and learning that come with being a free and vibrant intellectual community.