cnu

Christopher Newport University

Christopher Newport University is a place where people know and care about each other. This is a place where respect, civility and inclusion are the building blocks of a rich and diverse community.

Our actions toward each other matter but so do our words.

Christopher Newport has recently adopted statements concerning diversity and inclusion and free speech.

We’ve done this because we honor and care for every person. We want everyone to feel welcomed and fully engaged in our community.

We want to share the core of those statements because we want you to know what is in our hearts.

We want you to know what you can expect when you send your sons and daughters to us for an education, when you seek to work on our campus, or when you attend a game or a show or simply visit our beautiful campus.

Our Statement on Diversity and Inclusion includes these words:

“(W)e affirm our commitment to a campus culture that embraces the full spectrum of human attributes, perspectives, and disciplines, and offers every member of the University the opportunity to become their best self. Understanding and respecting differences can best develop in a community where members learn, live, work, and serve among individuals with diverse worldviews, identities, and values.”

We want to live in a world made vibrant by an array of people who have experiences, opinions, and cultures unlike our own.

There must also be room for disagreement without disorder or destruction. Free inquiry is at the core of liberal learning.

It can only flourish where the freedom of expression is respected and valued.

However, freedom of expression on college campuses has become increasingly controversial, triggering violent incidents, censorship, and heckled speakers.

Federal lawsuits, legislation, and disruptive actions signal that free speech is under attack in our nation.

We’ve seen this in Virginia at several of our sister institutions and that is one of the motivations for adopting a Statement on Free Speech and Expression, inspired by the University of Chicago’s “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression,” and which includes the following words:

“The University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it. Although faculty, students and staff are free to criticize, challenge, and condemn views expressed on campus by exercising their own right to speak, they may not obstruct, disrupt, or otherwise interfere with the expression of the views of others, though they may reject or even loathe them.”

And we do loathe some of those views.

We denounce and reject the violence and vile and vicious voices of those who spew hatred.

With their words and actions, they abuse the American tradition of free speech and expression.

Together we must be a light in an increasingly dark world.

And, as has been observed by others, “without a vibrant commitment to free and open inquiry, a university ceases to be a university.”

Paul Trible is the president of Christopher Newport University and a former United States senator. Contact him at ptrible@cnu.edu.

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