President Kaler’s statement to the University Senate on Condoleeza Rice

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I do want to declare my strong opposition to the resolution that will be offered later in this Senate meeting seeking to stop former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice from speaking at the Humphrey School’s Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series. Given my position, when this resolution comes up for discussion and a vote, I will yield the gavel to the Vice Chair of the Senate so as not to influence the debate.

Our University must be a place that not only promotes, but aggressively celebrates free speech. The University of Minnesota must be this state’s headquarters for civil discourse and the boundless exchange of differing ideas.

I find the resolution particularly ironic given that Dr. Rice will be speaking about her personal story of overcoming adversity as an African American woman who faced discrimination growing up in the segregated and racist South. Her appearance on campus is part of the Humphrey School’s yearlong series about the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

That Civil Rights Act, and the struggle against racism in this country, has often been driven by powerful words that would not have been heard but for our American tradition of a robust and fiercely protected right of free speech and academic freedom.

I have opinions that sometimes differ from yours or others on our campus. That’s healthy, I invite that, and that’s the nature of civil discourse.

But we can’t have true academic freedom at the University of Minnesota by denying a stage to those we disagree with or disapprove of.

I strongly urge you to vote against the resolution.