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We value all diversity, including diversity of thought

As election day nears, it is a good time to pause and remind ourselves of our values as an institution that supports all types of diversity, including diversity of thought.

Our students and employees are individuals who have different faiths and political views as well as different ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations. The one thing we all have in common is our focus on education, whether we’re teaching, learning or supporting the mission of the university. We are committed to making sure that everyone on our campus is treated fairly and has a voice inside and outside of the classroom.

The university’s “Statement of Academic Freedom,” located in section 2.5.1 of the Redbook, the university’s governing document, speaks to the rights and responsibilities of students and faculty. Students, for example, have a “…right to their own views on matters of opinion… and a right to express those views in appropriate ways without fear of arbitrary reaction…” Faculty have the responsibility to “…be thoroughly prepared and well informed in their fields of knowledge and to be scrupulous in distinguishing between personal and professional judgments…” I encourage everyone to read the full policy.

The university also accepts the professional standards set by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), a professional organization that concerns itself with faculty rights and responsibilities. The AAUP guidelines state that “teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.”

AAUP standards also state that students should have protection against improper academic evaluation. This theme is echoed in UofL’s student code of rights and responsibilities, which states that students “…shall be evaluated on demonstrated knowledge and academic performance and not on the basis of personal or political beliefs…”

Students who have concerns may attempt to resolve the issue informally with the faculty member, chair, dean or another university official. They may also pursue a formal grievance through the academic department and college.

For a more indepth discussion of this issue, I call your attention to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 19, 2008, page A104, titled “What Not to Say in Class During an Election Season” by Robert M. O’Neil. [must have account and subscription or online pass; copy also available in Ekstrom Library, second floor, Current Periodicals]

All members of the university community should understand their rights and responsibilities as we work together to make UofL a welcoming campus that respects diversity in all of its forms. Thank you for all that you do to make this possible.

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