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A message from President Turner on free speech and civil discourse


Originally Posted: March 20, 2018

President Letterhead

SMU has always been a place where ideas are openly shared, examined and discussed. We value civil debate and meaningful dialogue that leads to discovery. We are firmly committed to the bedrock principle of freedom of expression.

At the same time, this University is dedicated to maintaining an educational environment that is inclusive and welcoming. SMU consists of individuals of different races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, ages, and political and social identities. In this diverse and culturally complex community, one of our foundational values is sincere regard and respect for one another.

I understand that commitments to freedom of speech and an inclusive environment can come into conflict, raising challenging and important questions for our community, as they have this month. As you may know, the SMU College Republicans invited a speaker, Steven Crowder, to campus this week. SMU supports the right of student organizations to bring outside speakers to campus. Our support for this right does not mean that the University agrees with any outside speaker’s views on any particular issue. To be clear, SMU does not endorse this speaker.

While the right to express ideas includes the right to express objectionable or offensive ideas, I don’t believe that language that seeks to divide communities contributes to civil discourse. It certainly is not reflective of SMU values.

As part of SMU’s commitment to free expression, we support the right of protestors to join together to demonstrate their concern by orderly means, in addition to the right of speakers to express their views. You can read more about these rights in University Policy 10.4.

I urge all campus community members to engage in opportunities at SMU to increase understanding. Earlier this year, we announced an important new initiative called the Cultural Intelligence Initiative at SMU, or CIQ@SMU. The mission of CIQ@SMU is to ensure that every member of the SMU community is equipped with the skills and knowledge to manage and communicate effectively in complex cultural contexts. All are welcome and encouraged to take part, including in workshops this spring.

At SMU we say that “Every Mustang will be valued.” It is my hope for our community that all of us do what we can to embrace and reflect that idea.


R. Gerald Turner

As a reminder, the following resources are available to support students:

  • Office of the Dean of Student Life, 214-768-4564
  • Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, 214-768-4580
  • Women & LGBT Center, 214-768-4792
  • Counseling Services, 214-768-2277 (confidential counseling)
  • Chaplain’s Office, 214-768-4502 (confidential counseling)