Communications philosophy and university-wide statements

Wayne State University, a top-tier public research university, has always been rooted in the principles of intellectual curiosity, diversity of thought and the free exchange of ideas. Together with an unwavering commitment to the safety of our campus community, these principles guide our communications with students, faculty, staff, alumni and others.

In my role as university president, I am committed to engaging directly and openly with our university community in person and through our digital and other channels. These communications allow me to recognize and celebrate our campus community's achievements and share new information about programs and initiatives that support our strategic goals.

Just as important, I strongly believe in mutual engagement. I actively welcome and create opportunities for students, faculty, staff, alumni and others to share their perspectives, ask questions and express concerns.

This webpage is intended to lay out the President's office's philosophy in communicating with the campus community during times of local, national or global crisis.

Statements regarding extraordinary events

When a crisis or extraordinary event occurs on or near campus, the university will communicate directly, clearly and transparently to ensure public safety and provide direction and resources to those who are affected.

Frequently, though, members of the Wayne State community also request communications from university leadership during local, global or national crises that occur beyond campus. They look to university leadership for support, reassurance or guidance during natural disasters, national political events, mass shootings, terror attacks, wars and other tragedies.

Our first priority at such moments will always be to provide information that keeps our community safe and informed, and to offer resources and support to students, faculty and staff.

We will provide such communications — either broadly or directly to individual community members — when these external events affect our ability to advance our educational, research or service missions; create a security risk; disrupt operations; or impact our community members' abilities to perform their roles. In such times, we will be guided by our institutional commitment to student success and employee well-being and communicate about the resources we offer to help community members cope with the stress, anxiety and uncertainty they may be facing.

At times, a message about available resources from our provost, other executive or academic leaders, or other divisions or departments will be more appropriate, given the intended audience or scope of the matter at hand.

Thoughtful stewardship of our community's freedoms

Research universities have historically been places that harness instruction, discovery and learning to encourage students to think critically, interact respectfully and act with integrity so they better understand and engage with the world in which they live. As an urban public research university that values innovation and discovery, Wayne State is committed to providing a safe and inclusive learning environment where students can do so.

Conflicting ideas should be passionately debated, and the rights to speech, assembly and expression should be put into practice every day. For many students, the university learning environment is one where they express their personal thoughts and perspectives for the first time, then set off on their own path of discovery to make unique contributions to our world.

It is vital, then, that Wayne State supports and protects these learning experiences.

Regardless of whether a public statement may seem appropriate or necessary, as president, I have an even greater responsibility to cultivate and foster an inclusive learning atmosphere where students' rights to gather and express themselves freely and safely are protected. 

A statement by the university president should never chill the expression of contrary views or inadvertently signal that certain ideas should be marginalized or silenced. Rather, as president, I have an obligation to foster an environment where students' voices are heard — even when those viewpoints are ones with which we may personally disagree.

It is neither appropriate nor practical for the university to comment broadly or offer opinions on most national or global events. My voice as president, in particular, is best reserved for matters that most directly impact the broad Wayne State community and our mission as a university.

At the same time, expressing one's perspective comes with the responsibility to respect others and to avoid conduct that threatens others or infringes on their rights to participate in our learning environment. The university itself has a responsibility to ensure the safety of all on campus and to discourage and prevent conduct that is intended to harm others. As such, we will refer potential crimes to law enforcement and discipline those found to have violated our code of conduct.

Consultation and timeliness

On rare occasions, the scope of an external event, its proximity to our region or the nature of its impact on our students may require a university statement that more explicitly supports or condemns an action or attitude.

When such a response is appropriate, I do not take it lightly as university president. I will always develop the statements in consultation with our Board of Governors, university leadership and other relevant stakeholders to promote clarity and a singular institutional voice.

Although this webpage provides a rationale for understanding my communications philosophy, every situation is unique. Decisions about issuing a statement depend on real-world specifics and contextual concerns, which may not be fully clear in the immediate moment. Furthermore, gathering facts and input and engaging in prudent consultation takes time and warrants patience in our community.

Our priority must remain the safety and support of our academic community and cultivation of an inclusive atmosphere of learning and dialogue that allows all members to respectfully and safely share their views. In turn, this environment prepares our students to be global citizens who can express themselves clearly and engage with others civilly — even when they do not see eye to eye.