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
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.
Ed Seidel, President