Topic: Inclusive Excellence

March 9, 2017

Dear Campus Community —

On our campus earlier this week, as has happened this year at campuses around the nation, some flyers that seemed to champion intolerance were discovered. The posting of these flyers was an impersonal, secretive act, that even if protected by the First Amendment, does little to advance civil discourse about the kinds of weighty, societal issues that exactly should be discussed at a university. 

To be clear, racism and discrimination in all forms are abhorrent, and are incompatible with Ball State's values and policies.

However, it is necessary, I believe, to frame this conversation within the context of the university community, which is sometimes described as a "marketplace of ideas." It is important for us to look to one another to gain a better understanding of things with which we might be unfamiliar, to extend ourselves to one another in such a way that we can expand our understanding of viewpoints that differ wildly from our own, and to challenge ourselves to never abandon learning, even when perhaps we are confronted with ideas that we find objectionable or contrary to our beliefs.

In a United States Supreme Court decision that dates back to 1927, Justice Louis Brandeis defended free speech by explaining "those who won our nation's independence... valued liberty as an end, and as a means..." They believed, he continued, "that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones." In short, counter offensive speech with constructive engagement.

Racism and discrimination are unquestionably contrary to the values of our university. But it's my hope that our campus will continue to be a haven for the peaceful exchange of ideas. Many of you across this campus work each day to further that effort within classrooms and labs, and through opportunities including the Beneficence Dialogue conversations such as the recent "Free Speech and Assembly at Ball State University" and "Teaching about Race and Gender Dialogue" programs.

As we near the end of what's been a strong academic year, I would like to challenge each of us to continue to engage in behaviors that promote inclusion, and cultural literacy and understanding. Some very fine programs, including a presentation later this month by Dr. Lourdes Rivera, associate professor of counselor education at the City University of New York, will offer us incredible insight into educating a diverse nation. Dr. Rivera's program, "Learning from Each Other: Negotiating Diversity and Multiple Perspectives in Higher Education," will be presented at 6 p.m., Thursday, March 23, in room 175 of the Art and Journalism Building. This is a free event sponsored by the Office of Institutional Diversity, and everyone is invited and encouraged to attend.

But let's not stop with one program or presentation. Let's reach out to one another and build relational bridges within our residence halls, our academic buildings, and throughout every college and department.

It has been famously said that the remedy to offensive speech is better speech, so let's engage in that dialogue. Let's have those conversations. Let's live our Beneficence Pledge by extending dignity and respect to everyone with whom we interact and encounter.

Thank you,

Dr. Terry King
Interim President, Ball State University