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Heterodox Academy

2023 Open Inquiry
Award Winners

OIA 2023 web cover

HxA presents the Open Inquiry Awards to honor exemplary individuals, groups, and institutions who are leading the way in improving classrooms, campuses, and scholarship by championing our values.

The HxA mission is advanced, in part, by the work of exceptional people committed across our institutions of higher education that advance open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement in the classroom and across campus. The 2023 Open Inquiry awards were selected based on open nominations received from HxA members and supporters.

In reflecting on the work and accomplishments of this year’s award winners John Tomasi stated, “It is encouraging to see so many HxA members making positive contributions to open inquiry and viewpoint diversity to better our universities. It is a special delight to announce this year's Open Inquiry Award winners – they truly are the best of the best."

2023 Winners
Robert Talisse 0

Robert B. Talisse

Exceptional Scholarship Award

For the academic who, through research or another form of scholarship, has best advanced knowledge of open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, or constructive disagreement.

Robert B. Talisse is the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. His research specializes in contemporary political philosophy, with particular interest in democratic theory and political epistemology. He is the author of over 100 scholarly articles and 12 books, in addition to authoring over 100 popular media articles.

Talisse is receiving the 2023 Exceptional Scholarship Award from Heterodox Academy for his impressive body of scholarly and popular work on topics central to the mission of Heterodox Academy. His work on effective argumentation is increasingly relevant on today’s polarized campuses and within our public squares. His work not only provides astute observations about the current climate but also offers invaluable solutions to decrease polarization and improve constructive discourse. Talisse is a role model of scholarly impact to advance knowledge of HxA principles both within the academy and within the public domain.

His colleagues note, “No philosopher’s work has been more valuable for teaching students the difference between virtuous and unvirtuous forms of argument, the nature of polarization and its pernicious effects on democracy, and how to engage productively with people with whom you deeply disagree.”

You can learn more about him here.


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Alexandra Lysova

Leadership Award

For the person who has most effectively championed the principles of open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement in the academy and beyond.

Alexandra Lysova is an Associate Professor in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University (SFU). Her research career, spanning more than 20 years, focuses on intimate partner violence, including violence against men, women and children, having published over 70 scholarly articles.

Lysova is receiving the 2023 Leadership Award from Heterodox Academy for her persistent efforts of protecting academic freedom at SFU and beyond. Most notably, she spearheaded the SFU Academic Freedom Group with the mission of “promoting open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement in research and education,” which now boasts more than 50 SFU faculty and staff as members. She also led her campus in becoming part of Heterodox Academy’s Campus Community Network in 2023.

Lysova, with her colleagues, works tirelessly across ranks and departments on her campus to ensure academic freedom, inquiry, and constructive disagreement are core to the SFU campus climate, and are actively developing public programming to model constructive disagreement beyond campus. She has been described by her peers as a “fearless leader who inspires others to be brave about speaking openly and challenging the status quo.” She also was the recipient of the 2022 Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy.

Learn more about her here.

Edgar Magdalena2

Beatriz Villarroel

Courage Award

For the person who has demonstrated consistent courage in pursuing truth, and embodies bravery in championing the principles of open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement in the academy despite social and professional costs.

Beatriz Villarroel is an Assistant professor at the Nordic Institute of Theoretical Physics located within Stockholm University. Her research focuses on the structure and coevolution of active galactic nuclei and their host galaxies and searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. Most recently, she has started the EXOPROBE project that searches for fast flashes from extraterrestrial probes near the Earth. She’s also published 18 peer-reviewed articles in astronomy.

Villarroel is receiving the 2023 Courage Award from Heterodox Academy for her courage in the face of harassment and discrimination within her field for her choice to work with exoplanet pioneer Geoff Marcy. As a result of her collaboration with Marcy, she was barred from presenting results her research teams at a Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) conference in the United States, and was informed she could not continue her professional collaboration with him if working at a California research institution at which she was applying for an affiliate position.

As a recently appointed Assistant Professor, standing up for one’s freedom to conduct research with a leading scholar in the face of widespread pushback at such an early stage of one's career is impressive. “Rather than back down or choose to fly under the radar, Dr. Villarroel is bravely carrying on,” one nominator commended. Villarroel’s experiences showcase how guilt by association can be used to constrain research and professional opportunities, especially for women in STEM.

Learn more about her work and her story.

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Eric Silver

Teaching Award

For the educator who has most effectively integrated open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, or constructive disagreement into the classroom and/or curriculum.

Eric Silver is a Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Penn State University. His research focuses on morality, public opinion, crime, social control, criminal justice attitudes, racial attitudes, stigmatization, and patriotism. He has authored over 60 peer-reviewed articles, and is the co-author of the recent book, Why We Disagree about Inequality: Social Justice v. Social Order.

Silver is receiving the 2023 Teaching Award for the impactful course he teaches at Penn State, Knowing Right from Wrong. The course, which has grown from a 30-student enrollment to a 700+ student course in the four years since its development, is one of the largest morality courses currently being taught in the United States. His course does not shy away from polarizing and challenging topics such as suicide, prostitution, abortion, racism, sexism, necrophilia, the pandemic, immigration, affirmative action, and religion (to name a few); instead, he uses them to deepen students’ critical thinking skills and provide them with ample opportunity to practice constructive dialogue in the classroom.

The course has received exceptional ratings from students over the years, and typically has a waiting list of 50+ students each semester. Silver describes teaching this course as “one of the great joys of my professional life.”

You can learn more about him here.

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UNC Chapel Hill & UNC Charlotte

Institutional Excellence Award

For the college, university, or center/institute operating as part of a college or university that has done the most to advance or sustain open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement either on its own campus or nationally.

University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill is the nation's first public university and one of the top ranked public universities in the US; and UNC Charlotte is North Carolina’s premier urban research university. Both universities are part of the UNC system and collectively enroll over 40,000 students annually.

UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Charlotte are jointly receiving the 2023 Institutional Excellence Award from Heterodox Academy for their myriad efforts and successes in promoting free expression on their campuses and serving as role models for other research institutions. Both institutions are also part of HxA’s Campus Community Network, which aims to showcase and model HxA values, and improve institutional policies, practices, and culture on their campus.

In recent years, UNC Chapel Hill has spearheaded campus-wide research to assess free expression and campus dialogue, which has since been implemented at eight institutions across the UNC system. The institution also launched the UNC Program for Public Discourse, a key institutional component of UNC’s efforts to showcase viewpoint diversity and constructive discourse. Importantly, UNC Chapel Hill has recently passed three resolutions to protect academic freedom and institutional neutrality (here, here, and here). And finally, UNC created the faculty Committee for Academic Freedom and Free Expression in 2023, among other accomplishments.

Led by the Free Expression & Constructive Dialogue Task Force, UNC Charlotte has launched a number of successful initiatives to become a leader in viewpoint diversity. In April 2023, the faculty overwhelmingly passed a free speech resolution based on the Chicago principles. The task force also created a Constructive Dialogue Faculty Learning Community to bring the tools of constructive dialogue into the classroom, in addition to creating a resource website for anyone on campus. And finally, the task force created the Charlotte Conversationalists, which is a new program that has trained 10 undergraduate students in the art of constructive dialogue and will support them to conduct student conversations in informal settings on campus, among other accomplishments.

Heterodox Academy is the one place where I can play the token social justice feminist sex radical and still be in great company.

Alice DregerHistorian and Author
Alice Dreger

In a very short period Heterodox Academy has become the nation's leading champion of intellectual honesty, open debate and viewpoint diversity - for a simple reason: its members practice intellectual virtues that they preach.

David BrooksOp-Ed columnistNew York Times
David A Brooks
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Complimentary membership includes access to the new HxA Portal — a private online forum for HxA members and HxCommunities — invitations to members-only events, funding opportunities, professional development opportunities, members-only discounts to HxA Summits, and more.

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