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Dear colleagues,

Since Oct. 7, our campus has been wrought with divisions over the Israel-Hamas war. Carolina is not unique in this respect; colleges nationwide are confronting the same challenges of allowing free speech while also promoting the well-being of those who live, work and are educated on campus. Our chancellor and provost have issued statements calling for peaceful and respectful dialogue. A few weeks ago, I sent out a message reminding our faculty that academic freedom is a right that comes with responsibilities.  On Nov. 28, a panel discussion took place in one of our departments in which a guest speaker made remarks that I found abhorrent and antithetical to what the university represents, which is a place where debate—even vigorous, contentious debate—advances our knowledge and understanding of complex topics. You have heard me speak often about our desire to model civil discourse and educate our students in having difficult conversations. That event failed in this regard. I join Chancellor Guskiewicz in his condemnation of the visitor’s remarks, which glorified violence. Yes, even hate speech is protected speech, but we have a responsibility in the College to ensure that we are providing an atmosphere that is conducive to learning for all students. Plainly put, antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of prejudice are wrong, and prohibited discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated at Carolina.I have spoken to the organizers of this event, and I will be sharing with my department chairs at our January meeting my expectations for departments when organizing future events. I want to be clear: I am not discouraging the exploration of contentious topics, and I am firmly committed to upholding First Amendment rights. I believe the College is exactly the kind of place to be tackling difficult issues, sharing a variety of viewpoints and challenging ourselves and others. But we should be doing so in a way that is educational, and where all people feel safe and respected.  We have a tremendous resource at our disposal here in the College. The Program for Public Discourse, soon to become part of our School of Civic Life and Leadership, will offer training for faculty and chairs on facilitating class dialogues and debates on difficult subjects. Look for an announcement of one or more workshops early next semester on how to design and organize public events that facilitate debate on provocative topics.I have already met with some of our center directors and department chairs to begin planning a series of events during the spring semester to take on issues of antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination. I have every expectation that these events will tap the expertise of our faculty and serve as models of how to hold productive and lively discussions where participants can share a variety of viewpoints in an atmosphere of respect and trust.



James W.C. White
Craver Family Dean
College of Arts and Sciences

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