Hamline News

Civility Matters at Hamline University

Hamline University has released a civility statement that serves as a guide for conversation and debate among the campus community.

“Over the last few years, there has been an erosion in how we engage in civil discourse. The pandemic, and social and political unrest, have shed further light on our need, as a nation of people, to have difficult yet meaningful conversations,” said President Fayneese Miller. “At Hamline University we respect and encourage different views. More importantly, we know that to do so, more than rhetoric is needed. We must make it clear to all who we are and what we value and expect from members of our community.”

The full statement encourages interactions around divisive issues while setting expectations for behavior.

"Hamline University is dedicated to intellectual inquiry in its full depth, breadth, abundance, and diversity. It is committed to academic freedom and celebrates free expression for everyone. The University embraces the examination of all ideas, some of which will potentially be unpopular and unsettling, as an integral and robust component of intellectual inquiry. It is expected that the expression of ideas will be done in ways that are respectful of others and which do not include personal vilification based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, disability, or political affiliation. Hamline University encourages all, whether it be on campus or off, to foster a respectful and inclusive community defined by a concern for the common good by developing relationships and through a culture that promotes the rights, safety, dignity, and value of every individual. A university community embracing these common values, consisting of students, faculty, staff, the Board of Trustees, and external constituents, is vital to the pursuit of excellence in research, scholarship, and creative activity."

“It is often through difficult communication that we learn about each other and move towards the kind of change that makes us strong and truly inclusive,” said Miller.

Origins of the statement

During the fall 2019 academic term, Hamline University held two campus-wide discussions about race and race relations after a series of incidents that led to campus controversy.

During these conversations, President Fayneese Miller emphasized how silencing ideas that conflict with personal beliefs or values can make necessary communication impossible; yet it is through these interactions that understanding and needed change happens.

In response, Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence David Everett, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies David Schultz, and Director of Communications Jeff Papas began codifying this philosophy into a practical statement to serve as a guide to campus conduct when discussing sensitive or controversial issues.

The result was a document loosely based on the 2014 Chicago Principles in support of free speech that also reflected the culture of Hamline University. In the fall of 2020, a draft statement was shared with the campus and feedback was solicited from the entire Hamline community. These comments were received and incorporated into the final document, which was approved by Dr. Everett on October 2, 2020.

Future applications

The writers developed the statement to apply to many situations, including the upcoming election. 

“As the election approaches, the civility statement offers guidance for interaction in a time when we may not agree,” said Dr. Everett. “After the election, the civility statement can guide the challenging conversations we need to have in support of equity and inclusion at Hamline and elsewhere.”


Written by staff.