Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

Universities like ours are places where controversial and sometimes divisive issues are considered and debated. It is the role of higher education to address difficult topics, and it is often at the uncomfortable edges of challenging conversations where we make our greatest advances.

We value respectful discourse while also recognizing that even offensive speech is protected by the First Amendment.

The best recourse to speech with which we disagree is more speech:

  • Speech that clearly articulates a stronger and better argued point of view
  • Speech that represents the values we hold most dear
  • Speech that builds connections and shared understanding

We are going to see and hear perspectives that sometimes anger, offend and even frighten us. In a year that has stirred emotions across such a broad range of issues it is not difficult to find a topic that is contentious and has the potential to spark intense disagreement. This week we had chalking on the Quad. The week before saw an Israeli flag defaced at a protest. We’ve had students criticized for their political views. Members of our Muslim community and students with uncertain immigration status have been harassed. And once again we’re seeing Unofficial t-shirts that many in our community view as insulting to Native Americans. We can’t predict what the next issue will be but we know there will be one. These are often painful moments for our students, faculty, staff and community and we need to support one another as we strive to address divisive issues in society. 

There are campus policies in place to ensure the physical safety of everyone in the community. We work with campus and local public safety officials to ensure people may gather safely and express concerns or opinions. There are many resources on campus to ensure safety and to address incidences of bias and discrimination. Acts of intolerance should be reported to the Office of the Dean of Students at 217-333-0050, or (for anonymous reporting) or contact the Office of Diversity, Equity and Access at 217-333-0885 ( When we learn of acts of intolerance, we convene our Bias Incident Investigation and Response Team within 48 hours to determine appropriate course of action.

Every one of us has the rights of free speech and free expression. And every one of us also has the power to choose how we exercise those rights. We are at our best when we engage in dialogue that encompasses the widest range of views and voices. We do not need to agree on every issue. But hopefully we can agree that showing respect and regard for those around us is always a choice we can make. 


Robert J. Jones

John P. Wilkin
Interim Provost Designate

C. Renee Romano
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

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