To All Members of the Campus Community:
I am pleased to welcome you back to the University of Michigan, and I hope you enjoyed a restful and peaceful winter break.
We were proud to celebrate the graduation of nearly 1,000 students from our Ann Arbor campus during Winter Commencement last month. The ceremony also included recognition of 10 U-M Bicentennial Alumni Award recipients, with a powerful performance from alumna and mezzo-soprano Carla Dirlikov Canales and the moving commencement address from alumna and two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward.
I hope everyone has the opportunity to take advantage of U-M’s Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium. Events begin next week, and the Keynote Memorial Lecture will be delivered by renowned actor, author and philanthropist Hill Harper on January 15.
This semester, we also are planning a campuswide series of events and activities to examine the intersection of free speech and inclusion – an important issue that continues to challenge both our campus and the nation. Universities like ours provide an ideal forum to explore and discuss what limits can or should be placed on speech that is hurtful or demeaning to specific groups or in opposition to our shared values.
Titled “Speech and Inclusion: Recognizing Conflict and Building Tools for Engagement,” the series will bring us together as an academic community to engage in productive conversations aimed at promoting a positive campus environment and helping our students, faculty and staff more deeply understand these complicated issues.
Our series will focus on areas that reflect the breadth and influence of our university, including politics, culture, higher education, sports, journalism, and social justice. Events include Teach-Outs from our Office of Academic Innovation, a Teach-In from our National Center for Institutional Diversity, the No Safety Net series of theatrical performances produced by the University Musical Society, and events on free speech and disagreement in the modern world hosted by Wallace House, home of U-M’s special fellowships for journalists.
We also will host an American Council on Education Conversation with Higher Education Leaders on April 10, featuring leaders of institutions who have a stake in securing a path forward that honors free expression while maintaining inclusive campus communities that value diverse perspectives.
As more events are confirmed and scheduled, we will post them on our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion website. Free speech and the campus climate around issues of inclusion are tremendously important at U-M. Our strength as an academic community provides an enormous opportunity to foster intellectual debate and greater understanding that will help our university and nation meet the challenges ahead.
I thank everyone in the U-M community for engaging with this challenging, sometimes painful, but important topic.
I wish all of you a terrific semester, and a happy, healthy and successful 2018.
Mark S. Schlissel