The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee values and protects free speech, and as a public university, provides space for speakers with a wide array of experiences and perspectives to share their views. We do this understanding that the First Amendment protects not only the speaker but the audience, who learn and grow through exposure to new and different ideas.

We value diversity of thought, background and experience, not only because we are all worthy of respect, but because our graduates and employees live and work in an increasingly diverse and complex world. We understand that we need interaction and connection with people who are different from us to consider new perspectives and extend the limits of our own understanding.

We also know that some speakers do not share our respect for innate human dignity, and there will be some who espouse ideas that are offensive or hurtful to members of our campus community. This is their legal right. But let us be clear: UWM unequivocally condemns hate speech, and it will not be tolerated when it crosses over into forms of expression that are not protected by the First Amendment. These include comments that falsely defame a specific person, that constitute true threats or harassment, or that incite imminent illegal action. These types of speech do not further learning and will find neither haven nor acceptance here.

As a community dedicated to learning, we must all listen and speak with care, being sensitive to the fact that our words can help or hurt, build up or tear down, advance understanding or hinder it. We must strive to pay attention to, encourage and amplify voices that have been marginalized. Their perspectives are as important and valid as those speaking from a place of privilege, whose voices have often been overrepresented.

There will be times when it is difficult to listen to each other. Disagreement is inevitable in a diverse community like the one at UWM, and respectful discourse that carefully considers the perspectives of others is a learned skill that requires sustained effort and practice. We must all strive to build these skills and to provide a supportive environment for others to do the same.

The university may enact rules concerning the time, manner and place of expression to avoid disruption of its educational mission. For example, it can limit public gatherings to certain hours and locations, or it could ban the use of megaphones. But these rules may not be used solely to suppress disagreeable opinions or compromise the principle of intellectual freedom. They must apply to all speakers equally.

The Universities of Wisconsin is committed to academic freedom and freedom of expression, as is UWM. On our campuses, we balance that commitment with one to provide compassionate care for our community, respect human dignity and encourage and uphold civil discourse.