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Announcing the Winners of the HxA Open Mind Awards

Heterodox Academy is delighted to announce the winners of the first-ever HxA Open Mind Awards. These awards honor the courageous individuals and innovative institutions that are making academic life better by helping others to reap the benefits of viewpoint diversity. The awards will be conferred and the honorees will be celebrated at a conference in New York City on June 14 and 15. Here are the awards and the winners:

Institutional Excellence Award — The University of Chicago: For the college/university advancing and sustaining viewpoint diversity and free inquiry on their own campus and beyond

The University of Chicago has long been a national leader in modeling an institutional commitment to free speech and open inquiry. Their “Statement on principles of free expression” (known as “The Chicago Principles) offers a framework for thinking about the importance of dissent and the role of the university as a platform for debate. These principles have been adopted by other campuses across the country. The university held a conference with 66 college presidents and provosts to promote and expand initiatives around viewpoint diversity in late 2017. From the Dean’s letter to the class of 2020 informing them that they will “not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” to its chart-topping score on the Heterodox Academy Guide to Colleges, the University of Chicago was the clear winner of this award category.

Leadership Award – Robert P. George and Cornel West: For the person or group that has most effectively championed the principles of viewpoint diversity, mutual understanding, and constructive disagreement in the academy and beyond.

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, and Cornel West, Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, earned the first Leadership Award for their shared efforts to marshal support for viewpoint diversity throughout academia.

George is a conservative and West is a progressive. Together, they created the statement on “Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression” signed by thousands of professors and others. The statement says, in part:

“All of us should be willing—even eager—to engage with anyone who is prepared to do business in the currency of truth-seeking discourse by offering reasons, marshaling evidence, and making arguments. The more important the subject under discussion, the more willing we should be to listen and engage—especially if the person with whom we are in conversation will challenge our deeply held—even our most cherished and identity-forming—beliefs.”

They also take their partnership on the road, visiting campuses across the US to speak together about their joint efforts and the benefits of open inquiry and constructive disagreement.

Courage Award– Alice Dreger: For consistent courage in pursuing the truth, despite social and professional costs.

Alice Dreger, a historian of science and medicine, embodies academic courage through her personal conviction and endurance when facing calls to restrict her scholarship. At Northwestern University, she made an open call against censorship after an administrator sought to censor some of her academic writing. As a result, she publicly resigned her post as a part-time medical humanities and bioethics professor.

While at Northwestern, Dreger wrote, Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science focusing on researchers who “get in trouble for putting forth challenging ideas about sex.” Since resigning her position, Dreger has spoken at many conferences and in other venues about academic freedom.

Exceptional Scholarship Award – Tenelle Porter and Karina Schumann: For advancing the knowledge of viewpoint diversity, mutual understanding, and/or constructive disagreement through exceptional research.

Tenelle Porter, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis and Karina Schumann, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, share the Exceptional Scholarship Award.

Their article, “Intellectual humility and openness to the opposing view” in Self and Identity, was an investigation into recognizing the limits of personal knowledge and appreciating the intellectual strengths of others. The results underscore how greater intellectual humility can help us be open to those with divergent perspectives.

In Studies 1 and 2, participants with higher intellectual humility were more open to learning about the opposition’s views during imagined disagreements. In Study 3, those with higher intellectual humility exposed themselves to a greater proportion of opposing political perspectives. In Study 4, making salient a growth mindset of intelligence boosted intellectual humility, and, in turn, openness to opposing views.

Outstanding Student Group Award – BridgeUSA: For making a vital and durable contribution to viewpoint diversity on their campus and other campuses.

BridgeUSA advances viewpoint diversity by creating a network of student-run chapters on campuses across the U.S. where students can engage divergent ideas––as well as one another––through the practice of responsible discourse. With students increasingly reluctant to share perspectives in classrooms, BridgeUSA provides a venue to have honest, thoughtful, and fruitful conversations that highlight the benefits of ideological diversity and mutual understanding.

Our awards committee was impressed with BridgeUSA’s commitment, convening power, and constructive approach to difficult conversations. BridgeUSA chapters currently exist on seven university campuses, with 12 additional chapters coming this calendar year. Their ongoing growth reflects the vitality of their mission and the desperate need for it on campus.

Outstanding Students: For making a particularly vital and durable contribution to viewpoint diversity on their campus and/or other campuses.

Lindsay Shepherd is a graduate student and teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, working on her M.A. in Cultural Analysis and Social Theory.

Shepherd was thrust into national prominence after recording an evaluation where she was criticised by senior members of her department who took issue with her teaching style and methods to integrate viewpoint diversity in her classroom. Her steadfast response on the value of open inquiry demonstrated extraordinary courage and intellectual honesty.

Since the incident, Shepherd joined HxA as a Graduate Student Affiliate, formed the Laurier Society for Open Inquiry- where she launched an “Unpopular Opinion” speaker series- and become a popular campus speaker. Her Twitter account has become a beacon for developments around viewpoint diversity.

Zachary R. Wood is a Robert L. Bartley Fellow at The Wall Street Journal and a class of 2018 graduate of Williams College, where he served as president of Uncomfortable Learning, a student group that sparked national controversy for inviting provocative speakers to campus.

His commitment to viewpoint diversity extends far beyond the campus of Williams College. In addition to writing advocacy pieces in national publications like The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, he provided the opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on ‘Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses’ and delivered a popular TED talk whose title says it all:Why it’s worth listening to people you disagree with.

His book, Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection of Black and White America, was published in 2018.

In addition to congratulating the award winners, we wish to thank the many HxA members who nominated students, colleagues, and institutions for consideration; the Awards Committee for carefully reviewing all nominations and then creating short lists for each award; and the HxA Executive Committee and Core Committee for voting to select the winners of each award.


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