Student on Simpson Plaza

Messages from Dr. Seidel to the UW Community


Let’s Become a National Leader in Respectful Discourse

Dear Campus Community, 

As today is election day, I am reflecting on a recent trip to Washington, D.C., where I had the opportunity to engage in conversations on Capitol Hill and with national science agencies that I hope will advance our university. I also had the opportunity to visit symbols of our democracy, including the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, as well as the National Museum of the American Indian. 

In this contemporary era, our state, nation and indeed, the world, struggle to respectfully express and discuss our different views, to find common ground and to genuinely address thorny issues of our time. I am reminded of how our nation’s founders also struggled, debated, compromised and argued, surely quite loudly at times, but through principled discussions found paths forward to advance society and establish the world’s oldest modern democracy. The most important manifestation of our democratic republic takes place today, as we have the right to vote for our local, state and congressional leaders in the general election. 

Wyoming has a long history of leadership in equality and principled discussion that has laid a foundation for what we are justifiably proud of: being the Equality State, where the Code of the West is celebrated. The University of Wyoming has always played a role as a place where a multitude of ideas, expressed by people who need and deserve to be seen as equals, can be explored, expressed, often argued, sometimes compromised and sometimes not, all to help move the state forward. 

In our current climate, genuine, respectful discourse from people with sometimes widely different viewpoints seems to be more difficult to achieve. This is a national and international problem. We are all following recent ugly events and attacks on political and other leaders, as well as on average citizens, verbal and physical, sometimes on the right or the left, sometimes racially motivated, sometimes without clear explanation. It is a growing problem of our age -- and may manifest itself even on our own campus.

In response to these challenges, I am in the process of charging a new working group composed of faculty, staff, students and community members to examine issues of freedom of expression at UW in order to articulate and refine our principles of freedom of expression and to find practical ways to operationalize respectful discourse on campus. Dr. Martha McCaughey, visiting researcher in the Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology, will lead this group, and I am grateful for her willingness to lead the university in this critical work. The working group will provide its recommendations to me in May, and I will be back in touch with you following those recommendations to share how we will protect and advance freedom of expression on campus.

In the meantime, if you haven’t done so already, I also encourage all of us to exercise our right to vote -- and then, when all the votes are tallied, to move forward in respectful engagement with our elected leaders and our larger community, regardless of result.

I believe that UW can be a national leader, where we attract and support students, faculty and staff because we not only have a strong commitment to freedom of expression and respectful discourse, but because we also actively support it, from all sides and points of view. 

Thank you. 

Ed Seidel, President 







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