Dear Clemson Community:
Last week, as we prepared to begin a new academic year, I shared a welcome message in which I touched upon the need for every member of the Clemson family to embrace and live our core values of honesty, integrity and respect.
In those remarks, I made it clear that expressions of hatred or violence have no place in our campus dialogue.
Today, I am joined by Clemson Faculty Senate President Amy Lawton-Rauh to reinforce that original message: No matter how strongly members of our community may disagree on a subject, we simply must be able to elevate our conversation to a point where we can respectfully and intelligently debate the issues we face.
Like many of the rights that make our democracy a model for much of the world, the right to free expression is going to be tested from time to time.
The Clemson community faced one of those tests this week when the personal views of an individual evoked disappointment, concern and outrage from many members of the Clemson family. Situations like this can severely test our belief in the guarantees of free speech provided by the Constitution.
And to be clear, speech that may be protected by law, but which is hateful, mean-spirited or casts aspersions on an entire group of persons is not consistent with our values or how we should strive to conduct ourselves at Clemson.
Beyond that, speech that amounts to a true threat or that elicits imminent acts of lawlessness or violence as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court is not protected and will be dealt with appropriately.
These are especially challenging times across the globe, our country and on college campuses. The polarization among people of differing beliefs has led to strong, often hateful, words being exchanged – and sadly also to violence.
Such words and actions diminish all of us and make it more difficult to find the common ground that is essential for our community – and our country – to come together and solve the very real challenges we face and strive towards excellence in our work and within each of us.
As we move forward in the academic year, we call on everyone in the Clemson family to live our core values and rise above the fray.
Let’s demand of ourselves – and encourage those around us – to refrain from actions or speech that demeans or that aims to intimidate those with whom we disagree.
This situation can serve as a reminder of how important it is that we treat one another with respect – especially in difficult times. We are confident that the Clemson family can move forward from this in a way that represents the very best values of this great university.
Thank you to all those who cared enough about Clemson to share your views on this issue – and to everyone who makes this a wonderful place to learn, work and live.
James P. Clements, Ph.D.
201 Sikes Hall
Clemson, SC 29634
Amy Lawton-Rauh, Ph.D.
414 Cooper Library
Clemson, SC 29634