How Can Universities Reform Themselves to Protect Open Inquiry on Campus?

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Heterodox Academy

Member Grant Recipients

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Our Member Grants support the important work HxA members are doing to connect members and promote the values of open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement.

Heterodox Academy is grateful to have such a committed, engaged membership. Members regularly carry out work that aligns with, promotes, and supports the HxA mission.

Member Grants of up to $500 were made available in spring/summer 2023 to support member-led activities that either:

  • Convened current HxA members, prospective HxA members, and/or HxCommunities (e.g., at a disciplinary conference meeting or through a virtual webinar)

  • Promoted or demonstrate the values of open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, or constructive disagreement in higher education (e.g., through a conference or campus presentation on a topic relevant to HxA’s mission)

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Alexandra Lysova

Thanks to the HxA member grant, the Academic Freedom Group at Simon Fraser University, whose members include the HxA Campus Community co-chairs, including Mark Collard and Rachel Altman, hosted a gathering with cheese and wine for current and prospective members on May 30, 2023. In total, 17 people attended the meeting, including 4 new members.

In addition to time for general socializing and discussion, we had two talks. Andrew Irvine from the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, spoke on "The New Culture Wars," sharing his extensive experience with violations of academic freedom or freedom of expression at Canadian universities. He also presented some legal insights into public universities as (supposedly) non-political institutions and some ideas on how we might allow for and benefit from greater freedom of expression among employees other than faculty members. Andy Sellwood from Vancouver Community College then spoke about his experience as the HxA Canada Moderator. He shared perspectives on the importance of viewpoint diversity and resisting the temptation to form a homogeneous group (e.g., "anti-woke") in response to a homogeneous group with whom we disagree.

This event, funded by the HxA member grant, helped us accomplish our goals of bringing more members to our group and further discussing issues related to academic freedom at SFU. This meeting has mobilized our group to prepare a letter to the faculty association requesting clarification on how the "non-political" nature of SFU is ensured in some of the current job advertisements at SFU that require job candidates to commit to certain political beliefs and causes.

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Andy Sellwood

Our completed activity was an event titled "EDI In Canadian Higher Education - A Panel Discussion". It was held at SFU's Wosk Centre for Dialogue (Vancouver). The event was advertised through SFU. The grant allowed us to rent the room and have A/V set-up, as well as a set-up for live streaming.

The panel went very well. Each of the five panelists took 8-9 mins outlining their initial thoughts about EDI in education in Canada. Questions were then taken from both in-person and online attendees. Afterward, many of the panelists and attendees went for drinks and discussed plans for further similar events.

A recording of the event can be accessed here.

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Iqbal Akhtar

The HxA Member Grant allowed the hosting of a meeting with three key takeaways from the discussion.

  • Miami and Florida is important in terms of demographic growth and economic/political/social influence it has nationally, so HxA's increased engagement could yield important results.

  • Universities could include pluralism, citizenship, and character as ideas for student outcomes among our graduates which can, over time, help to shift urban political culture in person and online.

  • There is no consensus on common values and truth. Ideology has become an identity in America. The center is being renegotiated and institutions are being remade. What does the new America look like? It is an inflection point, perhaps organizing a new rational center would help to improve local, then state, and national politics.

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Maximilian Werner

On Friday, April 14th, approximately 160 people screened Meg Smaker’s documentary The UnRedacted (Jihad Rehab) at the Post Theater on the University of Utah campus. During my introductory remarks, I thanked HxA for its support of the event, which was attended by members of the public and the university community.

After the screening, I engaged Ms. Smaker in a civil/critical conversation about her film before turning over the time to the audience. Ms. Smaker took questions for about an hour. To my surprise and delight, the majority of questions had nothing to do with the “controversy” surrounding the film and instead focused on the film’s content. Ultimately, everyone did an excellent job of discussing the film in a critical, open, and productive way.

This event, which was a great success insofar as it gave people a chance to see this important film and to make up their own minds about its significance. Given the quality of the conversation that followed the film and how ideas were presented, I firmly believe that audience members’ confidence in critical thinking and civil discourse was restored.

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Martin Drapeau

We organized a 2-day conference on academic freedom and EDI. We had just over 15 speakers present and participate in round table discussions. There were over 500 registrations for the online presentations (as well as 25 participants for an in-person event, which was also streamed online). The event was simultaneously translated and therefore available in both English and French. This 2-day conference attracted participants from across Canada. It was recorded and will be made available online shortly after.

We are quite proud of the success of this event. Support from HxA was crucial to pay for the simultaneous translation as well as some Zoom costs.

I firmly believe in the mission of this group and am - as a political scientist - working each day to create a more respectful space for open dialogue in my classes.

Liz NorellAssistant Professor, Political ScienceChattanooga State Community College
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I believe that educators have an obligation to provide an environment for students to look at all sides of issues. I don not think that is taking place enough in today's academic environment. I want to be part of the solution.

Matthew HufnagelAdjunct Professor, Forbes School of BusinessThe University of Arizona Global Campus
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Become a Member

Join our community of faculty, staff, and students in our efforts to improve the quality of research and education in universities through viewpoint diversity, open inquiry, and constructive disagreement.

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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