Executive Council approves updates to MSU Statements on Equal Opportunity and Nondiscrimination, Free Speech and Assembly

Contact: Allison Matthews

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State University’s Executive Council on Monday [Aug. 22] took action to approve updates for critical policies pertaining to equal opportunity and nondiscrimination, as well as free speech and assembly.

The university has added the following “Statement on Inclusive Excellence” to its existing Operational Policy 03.02: Statement on Equal Opportunity and Nondiscrimination. The addition states:

“Mississippi State University is a diverse community where every individual’s ideas, beliefs, and identities are appreciated, respected, and valued. We reject prejudice and discrimination and strongly believe that an inclusive campus environment contributes to critical thinking, intellectual engagement, and growth. Our commitment to diversity is a responsibility shared by every member of the MSU community. We commit to creating an environment that fosters continuous improvement in our understanding and implementation of initiatives that promote diversity, access, and inclusion.”

MSU President Mark E. Keenum said after the council action that he believed the university statement on institutional values “was long overdue” given current issues confronting university students, faculty and staff.

“We have long taken pride in MSU’s culture of diversity, access and inclusion and free speech,” said Keenum. “We are committed to continuing to stand fast for core values of mutual respect, fairness and equal opportunity. As Mississippi’s premier research university, students and faculty journey here from all corners of the earth with diverse backgrounds and beliefs. We welcome them and their contributions and strive to foster an environment in which all in our university community feel valued.”

In additional Executive Council action, regarding existing Operational Policy 91.304: Free Speech and Assembly, language was added to specify that “the university recognizes that the right to dissent and the right not to speak are essential components of free expression. To ensure these rights are respected, the university requires that public statements on issues of current importance made on behalf of the institution or any division thereof receive appropriate review and prior approval.”

This policy outlines further guidance for Institutional Statements, including a process of review and approval that includes the appropriate vice president and the Office of Public Affairs. The policy explains, “The term ‘unit-level statement’ refers only to statements offered on behalf of divisions, departments, or other units consisting of university employees, and not to statements by student organizations. Further, this section in no way limits, or requires review of, any statement by any individual university employee expressing beliefs in their individual and/or professional capacity, provided such statement does not purport to express the views of Mississippi State University or any division, department, or unit thereof.”

“These policies provide a stable framework for balancing institutional responsibility with individual free speech rights while at the same time celebrating and advancing inclusion and access for our campus community,” said Ra’Sheda Boddie-Forbes, MSU’s vice president for Access, Diversity and Inclusion. “I appreciate the challenging work of the many university stakeholders who contributed to building these policies.”

To read the policies in full, view the Equal Opportunity and Nondiscrimination policy at https://www.policies.msstate.edu/policy/0302 and the Free Speech and Assembly policy at https://www.policies.msstate.edu/policy/91304.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022 - 10:17 am