Building the Future of Winona State University

Winona State University delivers the finest public education experience in Minnesota. We are empowered to have hopes and dreams.

From this position of strength, WSU has embarked on a journey to uncover transformational ideas that will truly change our university.

We are imagining what we want to become and where we will invest our efforts for the next five to ten years.

Learn more about the Strategic Planning taking place at Winona State University.

Free Speech and Academic Freedom at WSU

Developing the Values Statement

Given the nationwide tensions over free speech, campuses across the country have a vital role to play in helping all publics understand, define, value, and protect the constitutional right of free speech.

In 2018, the WSU Commission on Academic Freedom and Free Speech (CAFFS) was convened to co-create a value statement on free speech and academic freedom as a foundation for university-wide discussions, activities, and forward-looking policies.

To embark on this process, the Commission held multiple campus forums, addressing many of the following questions:

  1. How do we ensure rights to free speech and academic freedom and foster a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment at WSU?
  2. What limits, if any, should be placed on academic freedom at WSU? Does it apply everywhere and all the time, or are there restrictions?
  3. How should the campus deal with difficult, challenging, and controversial ideas and speakers?
  4. What sort of programming should we provide to help the WSU community understand our stance on free speech and academic freedom?

Feedback from the forums was used to draft the statement, which was revised and reviewed through our shared governance system.

The goal of the process was not to implement “policies and procedures,” but to develop a guiding value statement for WSU that reflects university beliefs, mission, and vision.

This value statement below incorporates feedback from public forums and online surveys, and adapts language taken from Winona State University’s Mission Statement, Inclusive Excellence Syllabus Statement, and Regulation 4-4: Use of University Space/Facilities (PDF).

Inspiration was also drawn from the University of Chicago’s “Statement on Principles of Free Expression,” (PDF) as well as the American Association of University Professors’ “On Freedom of Expression and Campus Speech Codes.”

Values Statement

Winona State University endeavors to be an inclusive and intellectually open institution. We support the free exchange of ideas and the unhindered pursuit of knowledge for all members of our community.

We believe exposure to a wide range of perspectives deepens our understanding of each other and the world around us, and we believe free speech and free inquiry are indispensable to this goal.

Moreover, we believe placing limits on the scope of discussion has too often been used to silence legitimate dissent. We proudly protect the freedoms of conscience, expression, association, and peaceful assembly as set forth in the laws and Constitution of the United States.

We value these freedoms, but they are not our only values. We also value the climate of civility and respect that makes genuine dialogue possible. Disagreement is a natural consequence of a free exchange of ideas, and fostering our community’s ability to engage constructively in that exchange is a vital part of our mission.

A commitment to free speech means that some expressions may be deliberately inflammatory, disingenuous, dehumanizing, or hateful. There is no point denying that when they are, they conflict with our values as an inclusive community and as an educational institution.

We denounce such uncivil speech. Nonetheless, our disapproval will never be used to justify restricting expression or inquiry.

Rather than suppression or obstruction, Winona State University encourages members of its community to meet speech they find disagreeable with reasoned criticism, non-violent protest, or patient forbearance.

Additionally, we strive to offer resources in support of those who are adversely affected by the speech or action of others.

Our commitment to free speech does not mean that we recognize no restrictions whatsoever. In line with our goals as a university, faculty members enjoy the freedom to research and teach in accordance with the standards of their respective disciplines; their authority to direct classroom discussion for instructional purposes is fundamental.

We also value the well-being and security of each member of our community. We refuse to tolerate illegal activities such as vandalism, defamation, harassment, or violations of privacy and confidentiality, or activities that directly undermine the functioning of the university.

Even more emphatically, we reject threats and violence as completely contrary to law, as well as to our mission and values.

We aspire to be a community of learners improving our world. Free speech and free inquiry are crucial to that work.

It is our willingness to come together to listen, speak, and allow each other to be heard that enables us to learn from one another, and over time, to discover and implement ideas that make the world a better place.