Wise Words from the VP, November 2018

Nov. 1, 2018

Thank you to everyone who helped, and continues to help, the campus community during the recent water crisis. Your efforts and contributions make an immense difference, and I am grateful for your commitment to our students.

Early voting wraps up tomorrow with Election Day coming up soon. We regularly see that national, state and local events directly impact the daily lives of our students when they experience the collision of different perspectives. This can result in a tension between how some students advocate for their political beliefs, and how others voice their differing opinions.

Our students are intelligent and engaged; they understand the freedoms afforded to us in this country, including the freedom to demonstrate. The very nature of a demonstration is to advocate for a specific position and often, to present an opposing view. That is the purpose and design — to protest against something or express views in favor of an issue. We also anticipate counter-demonstrations which can be a positive and effective response to an opposing view. 

Staff in the Office of the Dean of Students are committed to promoting civil discourse that ensures participating students can safely express both likeminded and dissenting views. We also recognize that fostering a culture of healthy debate can raise mixed emotions, especially when the topics are intense and personally painful.

The Division of Student Affairs staff do not take a position on speech that students express, but pledge to create a healthy environment for debate, no matter the subject. Our goal is to allow ALL voices to be heard. It is also our duty to hold students accountable when their actions cross the lines established in the university’s student conduct policies.

It is our responsibility to support ALL students, regardless of their beliefs and the ways they choose to engage in difficult conversations. We want Longhorns to take care of and respect each other. However, I do acknowledge how demonstrations and other forms of debate can distress students who are insulted and directly affected.

For those students who are demonstrating or impacted, please share these Division of Student Affairs resources that are available to them:

In the days ahead, we will increase the opportunities for students to learn about civility, engaging in and encouraging difficult conversations, and effective communication. If you know of students who have feedback or questions, please encourage them to reach out to me via email or make an appointment during my office hours.

Finally, thanks to all of you who were able to attend the open house in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. We all enjoyed the opportunity to socialize with our colleagues, sample some Wisconsin cheese and take the mic at karaoke! Mark your calendars for our next Division event, our Staff Holiday Celebration on Dec. 6, 9-11: a.m, Texas Union Quadrangle Room. Hope to see you then!

With gratitude,

Soncia Reagins-Lilly 

Your Vice President for Student Affairs