Our values and free speech

University of Utah community:

Public universities at their core are places for the free exploration and expression of ideas. This allows us as students, researchers, and educators to advance new ideas and new knowledge; it permits us to imagine and to be part of creating a better world. Disagreement that stems from the exchange of diverse ideas and viewpoints has long been part of the intellectual mission of our institution and it improves us in our intellectual journey.

Increasingly, however, we have faced something beyond intellectual disagreement. We now see expressions of hate nationwide that inflict pain and humiliation on others, including those within our university community. When hearing or seeing things of this sort, I, like you, am angered. I am outraged. I am appalled.

We are deeply committed to equity, inclusion and diversity at the University of Utah and we strive to foster an environment of respect. These values are essential to our institution and to our collective common good, and I remain dedicated to our many efforts to ensure our university is welcoming and safe for all. I commit to continuing to do all that I can to advance these core institutional principles.

As we strive to live our values, we face the challenge of how to respond to ideas we deplore. Hearing hateful words and understanding what we stand for at the University of Utah leads many of you to ask what I will do to stop it. The answer is not an easy one: As much as I may disagree with what is being said, the constitution does not permit me to regulate what can and cannot be said, even when there is speech I abhor. But make no mistake: By permitting free expression, we are not endorsing any particular speaker or viewpoint.

So what can we do in the face of hateful speech? We must exercise our own right to speak. Engage and be heard. Give voice to what you believe in. As president, I will call out hate for what it is and will speak out loudly against those things that are contrary to our institutional values. I encourage everyone in the university community to do the same.


David W. Pershing
University of Utah