October 18, 2021
Dear OU Community,
Today begins Free Speech Week, a national non-partisan celebration of the First Amendment freedoms we enjoy in the United States of America. Some may think the setting aside of time to recognize these freedoms is unnecessary – that these constitutional rights are so woven into our fabric that we need not take a moment to pause and reflect. But for us, these inalienable rights are so ingrained in what we do as a university that we believe it’s essential to mark the moment.
The social and political divides in today’s culture tell us that we must choose between honoring our First Amendment freedoms or the celebration of diversity, equity, and inclusion and that the two run contrary to one another. At OU, we reject this false choice and hold that both values lie at the heart of who we endeavor to be as a university community. It was in the crafting of our Strategic Plan that we were struck by the importance of ensuring OU is both a rich place of belonging for all people, and a place that champions freedom of thought and expression.
OU is a well spring of optimism and hope for our individual and collective future. We must ensure that at OU, free expression and genuine diversity – in all its forms – flourish simultaneously. These two things are not incompatible and are necessary for the very purpose of our university, which is to change lives in the kind of environment where people, ideas, innovations, and creativity thrive.
To detail this harmony, and our commitment, I have written a statement on the intersection of First Amendment freedoms and diversity, equity, and inclusion at OU. The statement can be found here. I’m happy to share this with you as we mark the celebration of Free Speech Week at our university, during which we’re hosting a number of events. You can learn more about OU’s participation in Free Speech Week here. I hope you are able to participate.
Thank you for your commitment to helping us craft a supportive and welcoming community for all at the University of Oklahoma.
Live On, University,
Joseph Harroz, Jr.