Students, faculty and staff-
As you know, the University of Nebraska has been in the spotlight over the last few days in regard to freedom of speech. This has been in response to a peaceful demonstration by three of our student athletes during the national anthem at the football game last Saturday.
NU President Bounds sent you an email earlier today expressing his unwavering support, and the University of Nebraska system’s principled support, of freedom of speech. We are proud and indeed fortunate to be engaged in the noble calling of higher education in the United States, and part of an organization that considers this freedom to be an indelible right.
I would add that the demonstration by our student-athletes represents the fact that we are an inclusive university; one that welcomes diverse views. The diversity in our thoughts and opinions is what leads to productive discourse. What isn’t productive, however, are threats or threatening behavior. I am saddened that the peaceful -- and by their intent respectful and prayer-centered -- actions of our students resulted in threats from a few individuals in public forums. I would encourage all to reflect on our beliefs on diversity and inclusion: “True excellence requires that each individual be able to work and learn in an atmosphere of respect, dignity, and acceptance. Our commitment requires each of us to continuously ensure our interactions be respectful, protect free speech and inspire academic freedom.”
While I fully recognize and appreciate that there are many who have strongly held views that this demonstration could have been achieved in a manner that did not conflate with the observance and allegiance to our national anthem, the fact remains that their personal choice to speak in this way is a protected right that we all are afforded by the Constitution. As pointed out so well by President Bounds, this same right allows our student athletes to kneel in prayer at midfield before or after competition – a tradition that is highly valued by many people as well.
Our student-athletes have provided us an opportunity to examine our own behaviors, engage in productive dialogue and consider alternate views about important issues of our time. This is essential at a place of higher learning.
There is indeed no place like Nebraska and I so appreciate your work and commitment to our mission.
Go Big Red.