July 3, 2015
Dear Campus Community:
Events of the past week, both national and local, have raised a number of issues central to the core values of university life, including academic freedom, social justice, race, gender and diversity, among a host of others. At the heart of our mission is a commitment to providing a high-quality comprehensive education for our students, and doing so in a safe environment but also one that challenges our students to explore a diverse range of ideas and beliefs, grow and develop as individuals, and become part of an active and involved citizenry in a democratic society. An exceptional educational experience is one that challenges ideas and encourages creativity, not one that insulates students from the diversity that is our city and nation. Diversity enriches all of our lives. Universities are about ideas, some of which will push traditional boundaries and challenge the status quo. A vibrant university community embraces this reality. It does not seek to silence debate and discussion; rather it encourages and nurtures it.
The values of the University of Memphis reflect those we will celebrate in just a few days, including an unwavering commitment to free speech and the inviolate nature of individual rights. Last year we opened a Veterans Resource Center in recognition of the remarkable sacrifice many have made to protect these rights. As a university community, we will frequently debate issues that spark considerable emotion and passion. Let’s do so in a manner that respects the very values we celebrate on July 4th. We are a community dedicated to academic freedom, free speech and social justice. History has taught us that ideas are never to be feared, only the effort to quash them. Our Critical Conversations series will continue this discussion in the fall, targeting many of the issues raised in the past few weeks. I look forward to welcoming you to this debate, one that is not aimed at divisiveness or perpetuating stereotypes, particularly regarding race.
I wish you all of you well over the holiday weekend. I know that I for one will reflect on the meaning of this holiday and the countless sacrifices made by many to protect the very freedoms that are at the heart of our great university.
M. David Rudd
President | Distinguished University Professor