Institutions of higher education are constantly buffeted by debates, sometimes intense and divisive, over controversial and even hurtful positions taken by members of our community, whether in the pages of the student newspaper, in conferences and events hosted by our departments, or individuals who have been invited to speak at Duke. On our campus, as in the halls of Congress, the lines of politics, trust, activism, civility, and respect become blurred, particularly around longstanding and highly charged issues.
One of Duke’s most cherished values is unfettered debate and deliberation, granting wide freedom of expression to those in our campus community. With that freedom comes the responsibility to foster scholarly discourse, not offer a platform for polemics, and to ensure ideas are tested, challenged, defended and debated in a way that advances knowledge, rather than obscures or impedes it.
We know that some events held by individuals, departments or organizations will be misunderstood as representing Duke University’s position on a particular issue, when they clearly do not. However, we will not take the expedient and dangerous path of shutting down discourse, or worse, exercising a form of prior restraint that prevents ideas from ever emerging to be challenged, even when many of us may profoundly disagree with the ideas being expressed.
We must stand firmly, and do, against all forms of hatred. We must also stand for freedom of expression, painful though it may sometimes be. We do this in the faith that this is the surest, if not easiest, path to truth and human progress.