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Harmonizing DEI, Free Expression, and Academics at SXSW

BPC’s SXSW excursion began with SXSW EDU, where members of BPC’s Academic Leaders Task Force on Campus Free Expression appeared on the panel, “Harmonizing DEI, Free Expression, and Academics.”

Task force members Ronald Crutcher, president emeritus of the University of Richmond, Carol Sumner, vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Texas Tech University, and Linda Livingstone, president of Baylor University, presented recommendations from their report, Campus Free Expression: A New Roadmap. The conversation focused on how college leaders foster a culture of open inquiry while addressing the perceived tension between diversity, equity, inclusion, and free expression.

While acknowledging there are no simple solutions, panelists offered strategies to address this tension, including incorporating the report’s tabletop exercises into leadership, staff, and faculty meetings and retreats; affirming student athletes’ free speech rights while preparing them for the attention—both positive and hostile—their speech may garner; and programming to build professors’ classroom skills for teaching fraught topics.

The session also featured a lively Q&A. Answering a question about claims that some speech makes the campus unsafe, Crutcher noted, “You have to differentiate physical safety from intellectual safety. You don’t go to college and university to be intellectually safe… and that means that you’re going to come up against some ideas that are going to rattle you. And our job is to help you learn how to deal with being rattled and to get over that.”

Watch the panel with your SXSW EDU 2022 credential or After Pass available here. Or read the report here. 


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