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Chancellor’s statement on online petition related to Professor Carol Swain

Nov. 11, 2015, 1:52 PM

I have heard and appreciate the serious concerns of our many students and alumni who have signed an online petition calling for the suspension of Carol Swain, professor of political science and professor of law.  Professor Swain’s opinions are her own.  They do not reflect the opinions of the university in any way.  They are not my opinions, the opinions of the provost, or the opinions of university leadership.

Vanderbilt University is committed to diversity, inclusion, and freedom from discrimination.  Ensuring that our campus is a safe, welcoming, and supportive environment for every member of the Vanderbilt community has been, and will always be, our top priority.  I firmly believe that every member of our community—regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age or disability—has the same right to participate fully in the Vanderbilt community and have access to all of the benefits and opportunities  that Vanderbilt offers.  I am saddened anytime I hear that any member of our community—in this case, as highlighted in the petition, our LGBTQIA community and our Muslim students, faculty and staff—feel excluded from our Vanderbilt community.  This university is home to all of us, and all of us are entitled to feel at home here.

Vanderbilt also has a deep and longstanding commitment to freedom of speech and academic freedom, which are the foundations of our university’s scholarly activities.  Such freedoms necessarily allow for the expression of unpopular and offensive views.  However, speech whose sole purpose or effect is to discriminate, stigmatize, retaliate, offend, foment hatred or violence, or cause harm has no place in this university.

We always encourage all members of our community to express themselves and bring their concerns forward.  Exchanging information, ideas and opinions with civility and mutual respect is the vital thread running through the rich tapestry that is Vanderbilt University.  We will bring Vanderbilt’s core values to bear as, in accordance with our established procedures, we engage with our students, faculty and alumni on this important matter.

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos