Dear Dr. Miller:
Let me first express my great satisfaction over your selection as our new chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. I am delighted to have a former Mississippi State Bulldog in charge of our university. I am also impressed by your qualifications. Unlike your predecessor, you were not selected on the basis of your gender or any other irrelevant demographic characteristics. You were selected on the basis of your qualifications. You deserved the position you were awarded. And you’ve been doing an outstanding job so far.
Unfortunately, some of the actions of your predecessor have damaged the climate for free expression at UNC-Wilmington. Among those actions was a decision to post our Seahawk Respect Compact on the wall of every classroom at the university. My purpose in raising this issue is fourfold. I want to 1) highlight (by underlining) a portion of the respect compact that I believe to be problematic, 2) explain how I think it could be misinterpreted, 3) relate a recent classroom incident that shows how it is, in fact, being abused, and 4) propose a solution to the problem.
The Seahawk Respect Compact is indented below. Note that the bold portions are not my emphasis. I have underlined only one small portion for emphasis:
In the pursuit of excellence, UNC Wilmington actively fosters, encourages, and promotes inclusiveness, mutual respect, acceptance, and open-mindedness among students, faculty, staff and the broader community.
~ We affirm the dignity of all persons.
~ We promote the right of every person to participate in the free exchange of thoughts and opinions within a climate of civility and mutual respect.
~ We strive for openness and mutual understanding to learn from differences in people, ideas and opinions.
~ We foster an environment of respect for each individual, even where differences exist, by eliminating prejudice and discrimination through education and interaction with others.
Therefore, we expect members of the campus community to honor these principles as fundamental to our ongoing efforts to increase access to and inclusion in a community that nurtures learning and growth for all.